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What changed my mind about having a baby at a hospital

Submitted by nikki on Mon, 08/24/2009 - 11:44

From Hospital to Birthing Center: How I changed my mind about birth

I certainly don't consider myself a radical person and generally do things the traditional way.

When I heard of several friends recently having home births, I must say I was alarmed. We live in the most developed country in the world, and our medical system is one of the best, with superior training, technology, and medicine. So why would someone choose to go back in time to have a home birth, which conjures up images of biting on a stick and a doctor leaving the room saying "I'm sorry, there was nothing I could do"? My automatic assumption is that advances and improvements in technology have made birth better for mothers and babies. Punto. My assumption was challenged when faced with the following facts, many illuminated in the documentary The Business of Being Born:

  • 90% of women in the US have epideryls. While I'm not mother earth incarnate judging people who choose to have them, it seems like more women could benefit from an active birth of walking around and using gravity.
  • 45% of women in the US have c-sections (The World Health Organization recommends a rate of less than 10%). There are certainly situations where a c-section is necessary, and I wouldn't hesitate to have one if it were a medical necessity. The problem is that c-sections are happening in situations where they aren't necessary, and there are several disadvantages to having one: it's a major surgery; healing will take longer; for future children a vaginal birth may be difficult; postpardum depression can be worse because the hormones released during a normal birth are not during a c-section; and the hormone that bonds a woman to her baby (oxytocin) are not released during a c-section. A doctor interviewed in The Business of Being Born makes the point that if c-sections were done in the animal kingdom, the mother would simply not take care of her baby because the bonding drug oxytocin wasn't released. Finally, maternal mortality rates are rising in the US partially do to excessive bleeding after c-sections.
  • Infant mortality rates: despite our quality of and money spent on health care, the US has some of the worst infant mortality rate in the developed world. While the causes of the high mortality rates are varied, the education and holistic approach to birth a birthing center provides could certainly help.
  • Active birth: I must say I was horrified by the birthing position traditionally used by Mayan women when I visited the Museum of Mayan Medicine in in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Mexico. In my mind, a proper western birth happens laying and pushing from a hospital bed. But is that position really better for the mother, or is it more comfortable for the Doctor? Might gravity, squatting, water, or walking around help that watermelon fly out?

mayan style birth scene

For me, going to a birthing center is the perfect option between a home birth and hospital.