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Doctors Say More Women Should Give Birth at Home

Doctors Say More Women Should Give Birth at Home

Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) recently declared that too many women are giving birth in hospitals.  Fewer than 10% of the U.K.’s women give birth at home or in a midwife-led clinic, a practice which RCOG President Dr. Anthony Falconer said was “not acceptable, nor sustainable.”  In a report, the RCOG recommended that the National Health Service invest in more facilities led by midwives, and encourage only women with complications to give birth in hospitals.

The report follows on the heels of an astounding increase in the number of home births in the United States.  But although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is still quick to point out that giving birth at home, particularly in a pregnancy with complications, can be quite unsafe, the RCOG countered by saying that hospital births were not the “safer option.”

Falconer explained, “There is a perception among patients that they still see the hospital birth as the safer option. The use of some of these midwife-led units is not as great as it should be. These places are very safe and appropriate to have babies.  Roughly a third of women need a doctor, roughly a third need midwives and roughly a third might need both.”

A push to encourage government investment in home births and birth clinics could be a serious boon for midwives, who are often pitted against the more powerful traditional medical establishment and painted as the “unsafe” choice.  It could also save the government money, since home births cost a third as much as hospital births.  And, most importantly, increasing women’s options and educating them about these options increases the likelihood that women will receive the care they need.

Whether this progressive view will have much traction in Britain, much less move across the Atlantic to the United States, is anyone’s guess.  Only a few U.S. states require insurers to cover home birth, which means that although home birth is a cheaper option, most people who want it have to pay out of pocket.  This probably contributes to the niche market for home birth, which is overwhelmingly concentrated among educated white women.  Pressure from institutions like the RCOG could encourage the government to subsidize more midwives’ activities, which, as the RCOG’s report shows, could only be a good thing.

Related Stories:

Why Are Home Births Suddenly So Popular?

Midwives: The Vital Link to Saving Millions of Newborns

When Home Births Go Wrong, Should Midwives Go to Jail?

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Photo from o5com via flickr.

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51 comments

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1:59PM PST on Jan 26, 2013

It was once accepted, perfectly normal practice - and I'm here to prove it!

8:05AM PDT on Jul 31, 2011

Thanks.

2:33AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

A welcome initiative. Home is by far the best place for the vast majority of children to come into this world.

9:25AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

Craig Z.: ---- If you had any clue how common C-sections have become just because a birth is progressing at an average or slower than average pace, and C-sections that are performed because the timing of a birth is an inconvenience to a doctor's schedule, you would be totally shocked. The C-section rate in the U.S. has reached 34%, and I think that's a conservative number. Doctors want to avoid lawsuits, which is another reason C-section rates have skyrocketed. There is a vast difference between the level of care using a midwife as opposed to an OB. The doctor actually shows up for a minute or so during office visits after everything else is completed by a nurse. For the birth itself, the doctor shows up for the head to be born and to take credit for the whole thing, as a rule. Inductions are done late at night so the mother labors and the doctor can show up in the morning or the next day, so as to avoid those "middle of the night" phone calls. Childbirth has become a production line.

Home births for uncomplicated deliveries is perfectly safe and acceptable with the services of a midwife. Rates of C-sections are very low, and level of care is very high. In addition, both mother and baby and family are a lot calmer. Bonding with the baby is exceptional. Hospitals, of course, are there for emergency births. Consider that women used to give birth in the fields. Childbirth is a normal, natural occurrence. It has been turned into something different. It is ref

9:24AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

There needs to be more midwife clinics. It should be a readily available option.

8:43AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

Really? Until recently, some doctors claimed that the only safe option was a Cesearean.

6:00AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

I can't believe a medical doctor would reccomend home birth. Hospitals are equipped to deal with complications, homes are not.

5:51AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

A woman should be able to have her baby where she and the baby will be safe...

2:36AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

I think it should come down to personal choice. Until you actually go into labour, you most likely won't know if you need medical intervention or not, by which time it may be too late. My personal opinion is that the NHS should train more midwives and offer expectant mothers the choice of a midwife-aided birth at home, or a hospital birth. In my own case, I needed urgent medical attention when I had my child, which I would not have got if I had been at home - we would both have died. They might be quick to say that it's no safer in a hospital, but surely if you are at hospital you have access to doctors and medical equipment far quicker than if you were at home?

9:29PM PDT on Jul 19, 2011

Great idea! more relaxing and maybe less expensive

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