Why Women Choose Home Birth (and Real Health Issues)

admin March 17, 2012

Open any website these days and you’ll find women ranting about how their access to birth control is becoming limited (although that’s a misnomer anyway; it’s not access, it’s whether or not insurance companies are paying for it.  And as always there are clinics for women who have no insurance or cannot afford the co-pay where they can get birth control.  Which isn’t healthy anyway, but that’s another discussion).

There’s a huge fight right now between proponents of Obamacare, who are trying to mandate that any and all employers cover birth control, regardless of their beliefs about it, those who believe it’s a fundamental human right to have birth control covered; and those who believe that in the name of religious freedom, companies or people who don’t believe in birth control shouldn’t have to cover it.

I see so many problems with this, I don’t even know where to start.

Why is birth control somehow synonymous with “women’s health” and some kind of panacea?  Why is it that birth control makes women free and gives them everything they could ever want?  Or so it appears, from the way these people keep fighting over it.  Of course, there are so many issues surrounding birth control that are never mentioned — the health drawbacks, for one.  It’s also only one tiny piece of women’s health, which is the part I find most baffling.  Why do we care so much about one little thing, when there are much bigger issues?

Take home birth.

There was a shockingly whiny, ridiculous article about a “case for hospital birth” in The Atlantic.  In my opinion, they should be embarrassed to even have published it.  It’s a personal story — of one incident, that was actually handled properly — from one doctor about how much home birth transfers annoy him and that it’s clear, from his “training” and experience that no women should ever have home births.  He ought to be embarrassed for having written it, too, and passing it off as “news.”  Unbiased, it is not.

Why Women Choose Home Birth

Did you know that when I’m pregnant, I wander my large homestead property wearing my super long hair in braids, and I dress only in muu-muus?  I chant “ohm” daily as I rub my stomach and whisper affirmations to my baby.  I drink strange concoctions of herbs to nourish my baby and make birth painless.  Oh, and my house is lit only with candles because modern electricity is evil (solar panels power my laptop just so I can bring this blog to you…) and I would scream and hiss if a doctor ever came near me.  I’d have a homebirth no matter what because it’s natural and I just really want to get in touch with my foremothers.

Or not.

There’s nothing wrong with any of that, per se.  If you want to live on a homestead, dress in muu-muus and meditate over your baby daily, please do!  What I’m objecting to is the stereotype that any and all women who consider or choose home birth must be this way.  The idea that any modern, educated woman would wisely and deliberately choose a home birth because she felt it was healthier and safer for both her and her baby is ludicrous to doctors.

I get so weary of arguing with people who have no facts, but simply say, “Those stupid hippie mothers who just want to be in touch with their feelings…don’t they know moms and babies used to die in childbirth?”

Sure they did.  Before people washed their hands, and before we had medical help for serious complications.  These days we’ve just substituted “die” for “suffering post-traumatic stress disorder due to unnecessary interventions forced upon women.”  Sure, it’s better to be alive, but if a woman is suffering from depression or other mental issues while trying to parent a newborn, is that actually healthy?

Here are some facts about women who choose home birth (in my experience, this is not a scientific study):

  • They have carefully weighed all their options — which vary by location, medical history, etc.
  • They care supremely about their baby’s health and safety (this is true of any woman, regardless of her birth choice)
  • They wish that there was an OB/birth center who was supportive and non-judgmental available to them for back-up if needed
  • They believe is a natural process and needs to be generally left alone…
  • BUT are aware of signs and symptoms of problems, and are perfectly willing to seek intervention when needed

It’s so important to realize this.  Women do not choose home birth out of some misguided hippie notion.  They choose it because they believe it is best for their babies and themselves.

What’s Wrong with the System?

One thing that ‘the system’ is not doing is looking at its own role in this situation.  To hear the mainstream talk, they are absolutely baffled why women are suddenly choosing home birth in much larger numbers.  They believe they are providing, as always, top-quality care and that women are “lucky” to have such an advanced health care system.

Yes, but.

Women are lucky that these options are available to them if they need it.  They are not lucky that these “wonderful” interventions are forced on them because managed birth has become normal.  Interventions — of any variety — should be used with caution and where needed, and everyone would celebrate them.  It’s simply that they overstep their bounds.  (And yes, the insurance companies’ pressure and the threat of malpractice lawsuits isn’t helping matters — the whole system is broken.)

Women are choosing home birth now because:

  • The c-section rate is 33%, and in some areas, much higher.  That’s totally unacceptable.  (WHO calls for no higher than 10%, and most midwives have a rate of 2 – 4%.)
  • Women are frequently scared into early inductions for reasons like “the baby might be too big” or “your fluid might be low” or “you’re past your due date!”  None of which are necessarily valid reasons.
  • Early induction means that ‘failure to progress’ is more likely, and c-section is more likely
  • Women are forced into continuous monitoring
  • Lying still in bed (as required with continuous monitoring) increases the need for Pitocin, and an epidural
  • Pitocin increases the likelihood of an epidural because of increased pain
  • Most women are told to push while on their backs, with their bottoms in the air.  This leads to longer pushing, a greater risk of tearing and/or episiotomy, and a greater risk of forceps/vacuum delivery (due to the pelvic opening being smaller by about 30%)
  • These practices in the majority of cases are NOT evidence-based; they are “hospital procedure” or “doctor convenience”
  • Women are not actually informed of the risks/benefits of each care option, they are simply told what “procedure” is and encouraged to just follow it

The bottom line?  Women don’t have a choice.  They are told, however gently, “This is how we have babies.  Deal with it.”  Women aren’t really objecting to the treatments; they’re objecting to the lack of choice.

There is no informed consent here!  With informed consent, a doctor says to a patient, “This is what the situation is.  These are your options.  These are the risks and benefits to each.  This is what I recommend you choose.  Now, what do you want to do?”  That’s almost never what happens.

Image by koadmunkee

Why This Matters

Some women will never consider home birth.  And that’s fine — it is not for everyone.  It is for those who strongly feel that, given their research, it is the best option for them and their babies.  Realistically this will remain a fairly small percentage and there is nothing wrong with that.

But women who don’t want to choose home birth should still care because it is part of a larger health issue: do we have the right to choose our care?

And this extends to any and all healthcare issues: do we have the right to choose birth control or not (and be informed of the true risks/benefits of choosing it, rather than celebrating it as a women’s liberation issue — it is a drug, everyone, not freedom)?  Do we have the right to choose where we get our OB care?  Do we have the right to choose where our babies are born?

Outside of women’s health, do we have the right to choose vaccines — or avoid them?  To get or avoid drugs?  What food to consume, even?  Raw milk is still illegal and farmers are being prosecuted for selling it, even if they are using herd shares or other legal methods.  How do we have the right to consume dangerous processed foods, alcohol, cigarettes…but not raw milk?

It’s time to stop focusing on just one freedom issue — birth control, for example — and start focusing on the issue as a whole: do we have the right to make our own choices, free from bullying and oppression?  When we’re arguing about “women’s rights,” why don’t we argue for the right to choose anything for ourselves?  To stop society that wants to tell us what all the answers are?  Everyone is affected by this in some way.

I just get so annoyed when I see everyone focusing on whether or not insurance companies will cover birth control.  Home birth isn’t even legal in many areas; forget about insurance coverage!  Some women have to hope they don’t “get caught,” lest the police or CPS are called and they lose custody of their newborn (it’s rare, but it happens).  Why are we sweeping this under the rug?  Worse, why are some women who are heavily advocating for birth control to be covered also against other women being able to choose home birth?  All women should have a choice.  We, the parents make the decisions — not other individuals, and certainly not the government!

The Bottom Line

The government needs to stop legislating what is “appropriate” health care and what is not.  It needs to stop telling us what we can do with our bodies and our babies.  The decisions — and the consequences of those decisions — lie with each of us.

Next time an issue comes up, rather than fighting about that issue and drawing lines and sides, with people who make different choices and hold different beliefs fighting against each other, maybe we can unite and fight to have our rights, to have our freedoms.  That’s the real issue.

Why do you think women choose home birth?


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  1. First off, I fully believe women should be able to birth where they want, but I will say that since my little girl was born with very serious surprise birth defects, I’m torn about whether or not home birth really is safe. We had tried to have a home birth, but due to insurance and travel reasons (and an uncomfortable feeling that it wasn’t the right path) we had a hospital birth. I’m so very glad we did. To be fair, maybe the midwife would have spotted warning signs better. She may have transferred me because of things she noticed. Obviously we can’t know that. I will say this: from the home birth community and everything I had read the logic went “healthy pregnancy=healthy baby.” Not until I was in the special needs community did I realize how many things can go wrong and how many moms were completely shocked by birth defects/genetic syndromes. What truly worries me is the trend I’ve been seeing lately that is glamorizing unassisted home births. I think there is a great deal of naivete in the home birth community: not about the process of birth or medical procedures, but that just because something is rare, doesn’t mean it won’t happen to you.


    • Hi Megan, I know that it is difficult because of your situation. I have a “real life” friend who had a similar issue — that her son was born with serious, need-help-now issues after a fairly normal pregnancy. She’d considered home birth too and ultimately hadn’t chosen it. I think that God protected both of you — led you away from home birth and gave you the sense that it wasn’t right for you, which saved your babies. Mothers’ instincts and God’s guidance are strong. 🙂

      I disagree that most of the home birth community is naive, though. They are well aware of the statistics, and what *could* happen. They know that in many of the “scary” cases (like hemorrhage) that their midwife, if skilled, will be able to handle it — while calling for help, if needed. There is always a tiny chance, no matter where you birth, that something completely unexpected could go wrong. I know this. A family member lost a baby during a home birth due to cord prolapse. This happened before either of my boys were born but it didn’t deter me from it because it was so, so rare…and it didn’t deter her, either, as she’s had two more babies at home since and is pregnant again. Women have confidence in their midwives, to care for them, or to detect problems and ask them to transfer. But ultimately no matter where you are, there are some things you just can’t predict. And I know, since it happened to you, it’s incredibly hard to stop worrying about it, and that you really just want all women and babies to be safe, and worry that if they don’t have access to the care you did that their outcomes may not be so good. But ultimately the teeny, tiny chance is not enough for most women to change their plans to have a home birth. To me, it’s like saying, “On the off chance that I might get into a car accident today, I’m not going to drive.” You know? We can’t mitigate or eliminate all risks. And the risks of unnecessary intervention and all that goes along with it is a much higher chance and risk to most women than something being wrong with the baby.

      All that said, if a woman feels, for any reason, that *she* should not have a home birth, then she should not. God protects us in many ways. 🙂


      • This is why I am so torn about it. Home birth is definitely out of the question for me now (both for comfort reasons and because we will be considered high risk in the future), but I’m still trying to work out my own feelings about it. Trying to process it. And I don’t think “typical” hospital births are the answer. My first daughter was a typical, medicated, induced, horrible hospital birth, which is why we pursued a home birth for our second. I delivered in a different hospital and even though it wasn’t 100% perfect, it was verrrrrry good. I still got my completely natural birth (which I think saved our baby’s life. If she had been put through an induced labor or had drugs in her system, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have made it.), but they also had everyone right there when she needed help.
        Going along with the driving analogy though (playing devil’s advocate a bit, like I said, processing), you wouldn’t say “well, there’s just a small chance I’ll get in an accident, so I’m not going to wear my seat belt,” right? Obviously we can’t prepare for all the possibilities, but the truth is babies DID die in the past. Babies that needed immediate life saving technologies.
        I definitely think God steered us to the proper path, but I think that’s why the glamorization of a unassisted births scares me: glamorization of anything can lead women to ignore that little voice telling them this isn’t the right path.
        Oh and when I speak about the home birth community being naive, it’s the same as women who have never had a miscarriage (positive pregnancy test = healthy baby) or those that have not had a special needs child (healthy pregnancy, good ultrasound = healthy baby). As much as you think you know the statistics, you will ALWAYS think “that won’t happen to me” until it does.
        Thanks for going over this with me. I really appreciate it. My perspective changed so much with my daughter’s birth and I’m still just trying to figure out which opinions need to change because they were wrong and which ones are still true for MOST people, but not us.


        • Processing loss (of any sort) is challenging and it sounds as if you are doing some very powerful work. I look at the driving analogy differently…. Hospitals for many women are not seat belts (nearly benign protection) but instead convey risks/shortfalls unique to themselves. So the choice is not between putting on the seat belt or not, but between refusing to leave the home (or perhaps drive the car, which can be the same thing depending on circumstance) or using the car to achieve the highest degree of autonomy.

          Having spent a considerable amount of time around hospital birth I am becoming more and more convinced at how *unsafe* the standard hospital birth has become. Mortality is quite limited in both home and hospital situations (as born out by numerous research), so really we are talking about issues of morbidity. If one includes interruption of breastfeeding as a morbidity issue (which I most certainly do) then hospitals far out way homebirth in morbidity. But even leaving that aside the number of birth injuries (not to mention birth abuse) that occur to both mother and baby in the standard hospital setting is unacceptable.

          There are certainly specific medical situations where I would take on the risk of giving birth in a hospital because the benefit would be clear. But in a simple roll of the dice, in many circumstances, I believe that safety is more often found at home with a skilled care provider.


    • I just want to jump in and say that I find it overwhelmingly irritating that there are women who are choosing, and perhaps even advocating, unassisted homebirths. I do strongly support homebirth – assisted by a wise and knowledgeable birth attendant. I am pregnant with my first (due in May!) and wish that a homebirth was available to me, but I am on Medicaid and that’s just simply not on option. (I am, however, hoping for a natural water birth at a hospital an hour away with a very sweet, intelligent group practice of midwives. I have to drive an hour to find natural-friendly care. Isn’t that a little ridiculous? And I don’t live in a total nowhere-ville!)
      Anyways. I am rambling. I am just irked that some people think it is ok to be unassisted during birth. I think that is foolish. Women have been typically attended during birth by a midwife/birth professional for thousands of years because we NEED someone there.

      Also, I’m so glad that you did give birth in a hospital where your baby had the care it needed when it needed it. I absolutely believe that modern medicine is a blessing – it is just overused in the general public.


      • Keep in mind, though, that it is a matter of informed free choice. A woman who chooses unassisted birth usually has good reasons and is well-educated on the risks.

        I considered a UC because I could not afford a midwife and I WILL NOT set foot in the rather scary hospital in my town. (We also had no medical insurance for awhile there.) I felt it was safer to educate myself on the risks, find out what the signs might be that I would need to transfer to the emergency room, and learn neonatal resuscitation than it would be to let those doctors within ten feet of me if I wasn’t dying. (I had, on the one hand, a horrible first birth, and on the other, a lousy experience later with this particular hospital.) I didn’t do it for two reasons: first, my husband would not support me; and second, we managed to scrape together the money for a midwife.

        BUT, after that experience, I realized I can’t judge women who choose to birth unassisted. Women in many traditional cultures do so, especially when it’s not their first child. And “unassisted” doesn’t usually mean “alone,” either, but with husband or family members who are well-educated … certainly as educated as your average tribal midwife a thousand years ago. YES, it is more risky. But sometimes that risk can’t be gotten around. Childbirth is risky no matter where you are — something could always go wrong. But we, as women and as mothers, choose the risks that we are comfortable with. There are as many reasons for birthing unassisted as there are women who do it … please don’t presume to tell another woman her birth choices are wrong when you don’t know her whole situation.


      • My only points here would be first that in many cases women choose unassisted birth because of a real or perceived lack of options. Take VBAC after an unecesarean for example. It can be very very difficult to find a provider who genuinely supports and will fight for a VBAC. So IMO don’t blame the Mama, blame the provider. The evidence does not support the current restrictions on VBAC. My second point would be that all pregnant women should be educated on unassisted birth because many times it happens unexpectedly.


        • True! It happened to me! MAKE your hubby read “If the baby comes before the midwife” pamplet thingy BEFORE your baby is crowning!


  2. Well spoken. We shouldn’t have the government or hospitals or whoever telling us what to do about everything.


  3. Kate, thanks for your balanced look at this issue. It is so easy to get caught up in the specifics and realize there is a bigger picture that needs to be addressed. I was not aware of all my options when I was pregnant with my first 13 years ago. I thought only crazy ladies who were trying to get around the system for want of finances or insurance still had home births. Turns out it was a good thing since (besides going to the hospital early because of pre-eclampsia) he was not only breach but his head was wedged under my ribs. They did a c-section and then had to make another vertical cut on my uterus to be able to get him out. I was then considered “high risk” and had c-sections at 36-1/2 weeks for the rest of my 4 kids to “avoid rupture”. Who knows how all of that would have been different had I known all I do now. Maybe my blood pressure could have been brought down somehow. Maybe Karsten would have turned on his own had he been able to stay in longer…We will never know but God protected us and its in the past.
    But you are right on! The bigger issue is freedom. We are the ones who should be making this decision for ourselves. It is not the place of government, insurance, or doctors to tell us what we must do.


  4. I am so glad someone posted on this! I had my first son in a hospital. Without going into too much detail, let me say… It was horrible. And I gave birth at the “good hospital” the one everyone tells you to go to! I was bleeding for 3 months afterward. They did some kind of chop job on me. Anyway, I was shocked to find out that the insurance wasn’t going to cover my water birth at the birth center (which btw is 2mins from the hospital!) we wrote letters and got on the phone and eventually they did cover my last two water births. Our Dr. still treats us weird every time we mention it or take the boys in. But is really is the best option for us. After both of our “water babies” I went home after just a few hours feeling really good. If you have a good midwife it really is safe for low risk people. It isn’t for everyone… but it should be everyone’s option!


  5. I loved this article. Because I am in a wheelchair, my husband and I have decided that it makes more sense for us to have any children we have in the future in the hospital. That being said, I also already do a ton of research on this topic (I am not pregnant as of right now) and I’m going to work my hardest to find a doctor who will support my decisions when it comes to interventions. I know this may be difficult, but I think it’s so extremely important. Thank you so much for this article!


  6. Hi, I am 17 weeks pregnant after one healthy baby who is now 2 1/2 and also a miscarriage. My daughters birth was in the hospital and was long, involving pintocin, an epidural and forceps. It was not a very nice experience and I didnt feel that I was able to assert my wants and desires during the birth. I live in New Zealand where we do have a very good maternity system and everyone gets free midwifery care (most people do not have obstetricians unless they are high-risk or want to pay for them themselves). For my first birth I never would have considered homebirth, even though I have a friend who has done it, and even after having my baby still never thought I would consider it. But now that I am pregnant for some reason I am thinking that I might like to have one. I am planning a waterbirth anyway, which can be done in the hospital, but for some reason the homebirth idea wont go away. Anyway, the problem is that my husband does not want me to have a homebirth, and while I want to feel in control of my birth and able to feel comfortable in my surroundings, I also want to know that my husband is supporting me in my decisions. So if anyone has any advice on how to talk to my husband about this, or good things I could get him to read, just so he would at least consider it as an option, even if he still decides no. Thanks


  7. This is a great article. I think you raise some excellent points – in particular about mothers who choose to homebirth not fitting the ‘hippy’ stereotype. Why is it that anything that goes against the flow of the mainstream is viewed with such negativity? I definetly see the wave of returning to natural parenting (inculding homebirth) to be progressive as women feel empowered to make choices that are right for them even when the mainstream (majority) disagree. Although they are considered a minority now – I think the tide is changing!


  8. I always appreciate it when the reminder is issued that birth choice is a social justice issue. And I share your concern about the health affects surrounding medical birth control (*love* “it is a drug, everyone, not freedom”). However, I found the tone of post a little more “us vs them” than I would have hoped. Using terms like Obamacare (which was created as a pejorative) tends to trigger an immediate defense for those (like me) who are in support of some sort of universal access-to-healthcare option. If we are really going for dialogue (for which you seem to be calling) language becomes critically important as it is often used by others as a measure of willingness to respect and attempt understanding of differences.


  9. I am thankful for my freedom to have a homebirth. All the same, I would like my insurance to cover it, too! I can’t figure out why they don’t — it would save them a lot of money over a hospital birth. But I think it has something to do with the relationships insurance companies have with doctors.

    More frustrating is the fact that I cannot obtain a doctor’s backup care for my birth. I need only a few things — bloodwork and Rhogam — but every doctor I’ve spoken with refuses to treat me because I am having a homebirth. They say I must either obtain all my prenatal and birth care from them (or a partnered doctor) or none of it. And they kind of have me over a barrel, because legally, a prescription is needed for Rhogam and my midwives can’t write prescriptions. I finally was told that I will have to get it in the emergency room after giving birth because they can’t turn me away there. But really! How hard is it to give me that medical care I request, and ONLY that medical care I request?! Doctors have the bad habit of sort of blackmailing us into accepting the care they want to give by saying, “I will treat you this way, or not at all.” The same thing happened when we were dropped by our pediatrician for not vaccinating. Either you do the whole medical thing, or they would prefer you go see a witch doctor in a back alley. Don’t go mucking up their nice clean office with your hippie ways.



  10. I assume you are pro-choice?


  11. I appreciate the blog and finding women who feel as I do. I am a mother of 4 and in all of my pregnancies, I have encountered rushed, drug filled but low risk deliveries. Being low risk (never having a miscarriage or birth defects, no blood pressure problems or anything of the sort that they claim needs such interventions like c-sections) I really wished I could have had a more natural option and not the “traditional” hospital setting.

    I don’t understand why some woman strongly oppose home-births and birthing centers but I can guess and have found that many I talk to are actually nurses themselves and feel like their livelihood is under attack. It may well be, but the continous and rising c-section rates for one show something is very wrong!

    It all starts a few weeks before delivery (and for some well before that) with the due date. You are pressured to have the baby by the date (which is based on very little data) or plan a induction if you go past it. The Pitocin used in inductions cause a very painful process and does not always work. Another problem is if you have had a c-section before, you are basically told that your chances of giving a natural birth are slim to none. The entire process is based on the docters time frame and when in the labor, don’t expect to go over 20-24 hours (this seems to be the time limit) when in many home births labor time may be 30 or more and without complications. Simply put, some woman may need more time. I seem to be one of those woman and I don’t want to be rushed anymore! This is why I am more interested home births.


  12. Kate,

    I have been going crazy over the past week about the national hypocrisy surrounding birth control “rights” and maternity care rights. I love some much of what you said in this entry. Anyone who does not support birth control or abortion is seen as a backwards, uneducated oppressor of women’s rights BUT at the same time women are shamed for breastfeeding and home-birth, two extremely natural things. I don’t understand how people cannot see the insanity in that.

    So many women now scream for their “right” to be irresponsible, their right to have sex without consequence (which is neither a constitutional nor biological right) and at the same time want to put down the women who want the right to make responsible, informed choices about maternity care. It is such a sad situation. Thank you for this wonderfully intelligent blog entry. I really appreciated it.


  13. Hi Kate,
    Just found your blog! Great post and discussion here. I had 2 successful home births (1 in Los Angeles and 1 in London last year) and am grateful to have had the choice – and a wonderful Beverly Hills OB/GYN as my back up for my first birth. In England everyone gets midwifery care for low risk pregnancies, whether at home or in the birthing center rooms or hospital. We paid for private midwives though, to be sure we had a relationship with the women arriving on the big day!

    I am tempted to read the article you linked on a “case for hospital birth”, but I’ll probably get annoyed.

    Anyway, wanted to say I’m glad I found you. I need some time to snoop around your site. Looks really great!


  14. Bada bing, bada boom–great post! Such a good point–society/the media focus on single issues, and other at-least-equally-important things get absolutely no airtime, nevermind the overarching issue. Freedom of choice is so much broader than someone paying for my prescription. Thank you.


  15. I know this is a little older article, but just wanted to let you know I appreciate it! When I got pregnant last year with my now 3 month old daughter, I just assumed I would have a “normal” birth with a epidural and possible induction. My husband and I then started to research and realized that is NOT what we wanted. I am not a good candidate for a home birth (I so wish I was!), but we labored at home so I could move around (baby was born just 45 minutes after we got to the hospital so no iv or anything) and I did it completely natural. I have never felt so accomplished in my life and know I might the right choice. We had a nurse tell us, “you’re giving birth which is natural, you aren’t sick so you don’t need something to fix it”. I also contribute my lack of post-partum depression (I have a history of it) in part to my natural birth.


  16. I feel compelled after reading this post to reply. If I had chosen home birth our now thriving son would be dead. He was born with Group B Strep and required IMMEDIATE attention. We did not have a minute to spare. I barely even got to hold him after I delivered him. Although I tested positive for Group B Strep, we took all of the precautions. I went into the hospital as soon as my water broke and was put on antibiotics for the following 12 hours until delivery. I had a completely healthy pregnancy and there were no reasons to think he would be anything but healthy. It turned out that I had 2 sacks of water and one had ruptured about 5 days earlier. So instead of coming into contact with the strep in the birth canal as usually happens, he was getting it for 5 days. If we had been at home, by my choice, I would have never forgiven myself. I believe there are areas where attempting the “natural” route is great, but childbirth is not one of them.


    • That is a sad story, but so incredibly, incredibly rare. While I understand that given what happened, you would never feel comfortable birthing at home, we cannot (“we” being women in general) make decisions based on the teeny, tiny chance that something like that could happen. Everything in life is a risk and there is always a chance of something going wrong…even something serious or fatal. But we don’t choose not to drive cars because we could die in an accident. Just as we don’t say ‘absolutely not’ to home birth just because there is a tiny chance that something could go wrong. On the whole, home births are safer for moms and babies. Risk-free, no, but neither is hospital birth.


  17. Good post, very thoughtful, after 2 hospital births I am 15 weeks pregnant and am hoping to birth at home this time. I just don’t see birth as a medical procedure.
    On the health care note, Obamacare is a patch. The health, or lack of it, for profit that has become the norm in this country is broken. Completely. No other “1st world” nation has as bad of a track record as far as birth and c-section rates and terrible sloppiness in hospitals as we find in the USA. All countries with Socialized medicine have better numbers and more acceptance of women’s choices and rights. They all have more support for midwives, even in conservative England. Government intervention or no, the system is thoroughly broken. If a doctor feels the need to be rude with me because I attempted home birth and had to transfer than I am happy to report him to his licensing board and have him reviewed. Babies die all the time, at home, in the hospital, under rigid care, some are meant to be with us for a long time, some are dipping their toes in this planet and going back to a safer place for awhile. Obama’s way is not the way, but given the competition at this point, it is the lesser of the two evils. The whole thing needs to come down, the only one who benefits from our current system is the shareholders of the insurance companies, not the doctors or the patients.

    Blessings to you and your babies wherever they find themselves,


  18. I love that I have found this site. There is nothing I love to talk about more then natural childbirth! My first baby was born in the hospital with the typical cascade of interventions. It wasn’t horrible, but not the best either.

    4 years later when I got pregnant again, I knew I wanted a more natural birth. My husband and I were both active duty Air Force and living in England at the time. Because England has socialized medical care, we had the option of giving birth in a British hospital or at the American style military hospital on base. I chose the English hospital because they believed in a more natural approach to birth and the use of midwives, however some of their hospital practices were old fashioned… such as not having a private room, visiting hours even for husbands except when in active labor, etc. Anyway, I watched The Business of Being Born which compelled me to do more research, which led me to homebirth. I discovered that our military insurance (Tricare) would allow us to hire an independent midwife (that did not work for the National Health System) and have a homebirth. So we did. And it was amazing!

    Then we moved to Florida and I got pregnant again. I wanted another homebirth, but Tricare would not cover it fully, but they would cover the birth center (even though its essentially the same as a homebirth) So I ended up giving birth in a free-standing birth center. It was amazing too! My two natural births were amazing!

    I agree with everything you say. Advocating for natural birth and free choice has become my biggest passion! What’s more amazing is that learning about natural birth has led me to learn about living a cleaner life in general. Its led me to find this blog, thanks to my natural birth board. Learning about natural birth has changed every facet of my lifestyle for the better.


    • Hi Mary. I know this post is a couple years old, so hopefully you’ll see this. When you were in Florida you would’ve been allowed to do a homebirth if you were paying out of pocket for it? I’m currently researching if active duty military are allowed to have homebirths even if they are not asking TriCare to pay for it. Thanks!


  19. This is an older (great) article but I still want to comment on it. I love the fact that more and more women are taking control of their births and realizing that they have more choices then what the doctor/nurses tell them. Homebirth is a wonderful option for many but I do feel that there are issues with homebirht as well that are being over looked. How about this…more women are choosing home birth so naturally more midwives are needed, sometimes midwives are overbooked, are not healthy enough, have their own idea how they want to run their midwifery practice, midwives who are incompetent or getting plain reckless. I’m getting very uneasy about how so many women are having such high hopes and putting all their trust in to their midwives when there’s really no way of knowing how things will turn out, just like in the hospital. There is no way of tracking midwife’s record except by the word of mouth (at least not that I know of) and its very easy to cover up bith stories that are not so successful. The midwife just gives the good references, skipping the bad ones. How fair is that? I strongly believe that more attention needs to be shined on that area of homebrith. There are women who are also suffering from homebirth experience (including me), and are suffering alone and really have no one to really turn too because you not only feel like you failed at homebirth but that no one really wants to hear that homebirth went unsuccessfuly. It’s as though talking about negative homebirth expirience will jeoperdize the homebirht movement.


  20. […] By   Kate Tietje […]


  21. Interesting take on the issue. I do believe that maternity care is a human rights issue, not just for the women birthing, but also the children being born who are subject to much of the morbidity (i.e., the long term health effects of not breastfeeding if the intervention-laden births impede that natural process). If you have knowledgeable licensed midwives, they have more training in normal birth than OBs, whose training focuses on the rare problems that arise. It’s not just about warm fuzzy feelings, it’s about informed consent, and trusting that individuals have the right to decide what is best for them. I won’t tell anyone to have a homebirth, just because mine was wonderful, but if someone is considering it, I encourage them to research it, discuss it with their care provider and decide if it’s right for them. Making it financially impossible or illegal is just absurd. This approach imposes an aura of control (i.e., I won’t let you make the choice you want for fear of repercussions) which leads some to have unassisted births in potentially dangerous circumstances. In fact, homebirths tend to be less expensive, so you’d think insurance companies would be leaping to support them! If only the medical establishment didn’t have such a monopoly on birth. I fear I’m going to get ranty here soon (like I did when I clicked the link to that hideous Atlantic article-grrrrr), so I’ll just say that women’s reproduction (be it prevention from contraception, to facilitating it through fertility treatments, to maternity care) should involve the woman’s choice.


  22. Wondering what advice you have on this… laboring moms attempting a home birth who have been advised by their midwives to seek immediate medical intervention for a problem (prolapsed cord, placental abruption), yet blatantly refuse and end up with a brain dead baby. Or a pregnant mom who has been referred by her midwife to a high risk OB for a twin pregnancy that became complicated and refuses, putting both her life and the babies’ lives in danger. She is so afraid of “being cut” that she refuses to go to a hospital for the births, and BOTH of the twins die, after prolonged resuscitation attempts at home, by EMS, and then rushed to a NICU. I am so struggling to understand this mindset. It seems so selfish to me. If someone told me that my baby was at risk and a midwife would not recommend a home birth, why would one still attempt it?


  23. I love this post! My mother had me naturally, at-home, with her best friend as her midwife, twenty-one years ago. My husband and I are now expecting our first {in three months} and I too am taking the same route. Not simply because my mother did it, but because, I have spent countless hours researching. I so strongly believe in educating yourself, in every single area of life. So no, I’m not choosing this because I am naive, or, as some say, “you think you’re superwoman.” I have chosen this because I do not believe birth is a disease; on the contrary! Our bodies were designed by the Creator, blessed be He, to do this. Just the thought is empowering. However, like you said, yes! If a serious emergency took place, I would understand, and be thankful for, today’s inventions.


  24. I think this is such a great article high lightin the lack of control women have when it comes to childbirth. I have three children. My first was born in the hospital with a doctor. The epidural they gave was so strong I was numb to my toes and a couldn’t feel to push so they had to vacuum him out. My second was born in the hospital with a midwife. My water broke but I wasn’t having contractions so they gave pitocin. It moved really fast, no time for an epidural, and my recovery was so much easier without, even though I tore quite a bit (he has a big head 🙂 My third was an emergency c-section after my water broke at home and cord prolapse…the whole cord. It was less than 30 minutes between the time my water broke and they took her out but she wasn’t breathing, no pulse. They had to resuscitate her and place her on a ventilator because she wasn’t breathing on her own. She suffered severe brain damage. I know that is a rare situation. However, I have heard too many stories and seen firsthand c-sections because women are induced for convenience sake…they are past their due dat, etc. I’ve seen family members receive an epidural at 9cm because their doctor wasn’t at the hospital yet and the staff was trying to slow things down. My niece had an emergency c-section because they induced at 41 weeks but she was in labor for over 36 hours, barely progressing, baby ended up being stuck in the birth canal and heartrate was dropping…all awful stories.

    My suggestion is this…if you choose to have a home birth, have someone there with you who is trained and has, at the very least, oxygen and a means of resuscitation and a way to give breaths, if necessary. If you aren’t comfortable giving birth at home, then make sure you have an advocate with you in the hospital. A labor doula would be an excellent choice. They are trained in natural childbirth and can assist you through the labor and delivery process, and be your voice when you are in the middle of it and the hospital is trying to push “procedure” on you. You have a voice!!! Get someone who will help you and stand up for your rights and get you the birth you want! 🙂


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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