In the U.S., a home birth is considered outside the norm–a choice that in effect could be putting your baby at risk. Depending on who you talk to in the medical community, you could be shunned for such a decision. But a new health guidance from a British health authority could impact popular sentiment around the issue. Britain’s national health services is reversing a generation old guidance and advising women with uncomplicated pregnancies that it’s safer to give birth at home or at a birthing center than in a hospital.
In all, 45 percent of women in Britain have uncomplicated pregnancies and births. And for those women, giving birth at a hospital increases the chance of surgical intervention and a resulting infection. Hospital births are more likely to end in c-sections, sometimes unnecessarily so, and women are also more likely to have an epidural which can cause protracted births that require forceps, according to a story in The New York Times.
Additionally, health officials said that hospital, birthing center, and home births result in the same likelihood of death or serious complications to the baby. Except the risk was slightly higher for first-time moms who had home births.
This could have a huge impact on home births in Britain and maybe even across the pond in the U.S. Nine out of ten British women currently have their babies in hospitals and the stats are equally low in the U.S. where only 1.36 percent of births take place outside of a hospital. And of those, two-thirds are home births and 29 percent take place at freestanding birthing centers.
Healthy moms with uncomplicated pregnancies may start to look at home births in a whole new light, enlisting the help of a midwife to make their births personal, pleasant, and according to this latest guidance, safe. But although doctors have remained relatively quiet following the decision, not everyone agrees.
“We believe that hospitals and birthing centers are the safest places for birth, safer than home,” Dr. Jeffrey L. Ecker, the chairman of the committee on obstetrics practice for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said to The New York Times. Under Britain’s integrated health system, if there is a complication, “they have a process and protocol for appropriately and quickly getting you somewhere else,” said Dr. Ecker, who added that he did not believe the British-style guidelines would come to America anytime soon. If such a recommendation were made in the United States, doctors might worry about losing patients to midwives.
What do you think? Does this make you think twice about giving birth in a hospital?
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Image: Serge Melki