First time mothers and home births

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At least once a week a report is published, and taken out of context by the media, on parenting, child birth or children that really annoys me.  Last week it was championing Ceasareans rejoicing in the fact that all women should be able to have one if they ‘want’ one – obviously they have not spoken to any women who have had one before phrasing this like it’s a luxury must-have accessory!!!  And this week it’s the ‘warning’ to first time mums against having home births!

The study claims that ‘First-time mothers who opt for a home-birth are almost three times more likely to suffer complications than if they go to hospital.’ It went on to state that ‘up to half of first time mothers were transferred to hospital while in labour from home and third from a midwifery unit’. Arrgh! This is yet again the ‘medical brigade’ forcing out women’s choices with that oh so powerful vehicle of fear!  I am aware not every woman will be with me on this one and perhaps it is reassuring for many to give birth in a hospital. I however, was adamant from the moment I was pregnant that I was not ‘ill’ and had never had a stay in hospital in my life so therefore why should I go now while I’m performing something that trillions of women have done through the ages and continue to do so every second of the day around the world which I believe is called ‘natural’ childbirth??!!  BearCub was meant to be a home-birth and I had my entire labour at home when the mid wife ‘thought’ his heart slowed so they took me in (during the transistion phase) when I arrived I was 10 cm and ready to push so I could have stayed hoem after all!

But what I really hate about this research, as with most statistics shoved in our face by the media that we for some reason feel unable to question, is that they only tell half the picture.  In fact way down near the bottom of each article on this paper the researchers stressed that ‘giving birth is generally very safe as 250 babies suffered complications from the 64,538 births in the study’.

Hospitals want us to have medical intervention during child-birth as it is quicker, safer (for them), and quieter.  Yes really! Ask any NCT teacher and they’ll tell you that hospitals don’t like the grunting, groaning, screaming and general animalistic noises that help us pop out our offspring.  We are hassle wanting to be mobile, upright, on all fours or have scented candles and Bob Dylan playing in the background!!! In short it is much preferable to them if they are in control of your birth experience rather than you.

I think it’s worth noting that only 58 per cent of women in hospital had a natural birth without any intervention, compared to 88 per cent of women who opted for a birth at home and 76 per cent to 83 per cent of women who chose a midwife-led unit.

Professor Peter Brocklehurst, who led the study at Oxford, but has since moved to University College London (UCL), himself said adverse events are very uncommon.

“For every 1,000 women, 995 babies would have a completely normal outcome,” he said.

In contrast to the study, Maureen Treadwell, of the Birth Trauma Association, said: “These findings are useful but are based on a study of only 5,000 women in each type of midwifery unit and do not tell us how many babies died or were brain damaged in each group.”

Could it possibly be a strong argument that the number of first time births have more complications because they are first time births whether at home or in hospital?  The experience is entirely new to the mother, things generally move slower and first-time mums do not know what to expect.  That sounds logical doesn’t it? And we are allowed to use our brains and our mouths right?

I’d love to, along side this, see a study publish the results and recovery time of women who have had a natural birth and those who have suffered medical intervention.  What can seem like the best option because it is the fastest can sometimes have the longer and more adverse affect which leads me on to another rant….. ok well I’ll leave that one for another post!!! 😉


21 thoughts on “First time mothers and home births

    pinkoddy said:
    November 30, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Interesting to know as to how many mothers transferred to hospital needed it too. My first homebirth they forced me in saying I’d need drugs they didn’t have despite me telling them I wouldn’t as I have a needle phobia.

      morethanamummy responded:
      November 30, 2011 at 9:06 am

      I would love to see stats on this as I too was transferred and didn’t need it. I really think it is more to cover themselves. Also they don’t say what the ‘compications’ are which means they could be ones that would occur in hospital anyway!!!

    Boo and Me said:
    November 30, 2011 at 6:24 am

    That report really got me angry too. The most important thing for all mums to be to know is that they have the CHOICE over where they give birth. Midwives should assist that choice by providing information and advice but in doing so should never take the choice away. That report as you say was taken completely out of context. Home births in some ways are actually safer than hospital births.
    That being said, if someone feels as strongly about wanting a section as I did about wanting a home birth then that’s their call and the choice should be there. I do think that it’s important that information on recovery times and complications is provided though – it’s certainly not the easy option.
    The coverage of the report made it seem that a medical birth is a ‘normal’ one. Anyone who has given birth will likely tell you that it is the most natural thing, that your body takes over, and that no medical intervention is needed.
    I had Boo at home, she was my first baby, it was quick and easy and I needed no drugs, help or intervention – as I’m sure the majority of women who opt for a homebirth also experience.

      morethanamummy responded:
      November 30, 2011 at 9:08 am

      Love this comment! Yay! I am so with you on the lack of info on recovery times for medically intervened births – I think if this was more readily available more mums would opt if not for a home birth at least for a natural one!

    Sarah said:
    November 30, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I was really glad to be in hospital. I got 5 days rest there afterwards (I live in France) which was much better than being at home where I would have been on my own as my (now ex-) husband was a surgeon and never around. It would have been a nightmare. Ditto for number 2 but I would also have had to deal with number 1 at the same time.

    There’s a lot to be said for being surrounded by care after the birth too.

      morethanamummy responded:
      November 30, 2011 at 9:11 am

      I’ve heard that about France that you are allowed to stay in for recovery which sounds blissful 🙂 However, seen as they get you out asap here you’ll be glad of whatever gives you the quickest recovery time as you’re on your own a lot quicker!!!!

    Valerie said:
    November 30, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I was bullied into a ‘high tech’ hospital birth with my 3rd child because I was 38 and had a high BMI. It was possibly one of the worst experiences of my life, and I really mean that. So many things went wrong and at one point I was screaming to my husband to get them all away from me because nobody had a clue what they were doing. It is obviously most important to deliver a healthy baby, which I did, thankfully. And that is the ‘weapon’ they wave over you. ‘Dont be selfish, imagine if your baby died because you want a home birth/low tech birth’. It doesn’t leave you much room for negotiation, but I can honestly say the first 6 months of my sons life had a shadow over them because I was so traumatized by his birth. And just in case you are wondering if I am the over react type, my midwife happened to drive past us one day when I was out with the pram and she drove back, jumped out of the car, and ran across the street to us, saying ‘oh, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you, your birth was very stressful, I don’t mind admitting I was worried about how I was going to get you through it’.

      morethanamummy responded:
      November 30, 2011 at 9:13 am

      Wow! Unfortunately I don’t think you’re alone in your story. The problem with statistics are they can evoke fear without giving the full picture and this was my main problem with this new research. Amazing your midwife even admitted it was ‘abnormal’- doesn’t take away your experience though.

    Fiona said:
    November 30, 2011 at 9:53 am

    This is all about manipulating statistics, isn’t it. Yes, it is safer to give birth in a hospital than in the dirt of a 3rd-world village with no sanitation, but that doesn’t mean we in the first world are better off in hospital. I had a hospital birth with my first and it was an utterly miserable experience. I didn’t feel safe, or looked after, and went on to suffer post-natal depression, brought on (I’m convinced) in part by the trauma of that birth experience. My second child was born in 3 hours flat at home (not planned – she just came too quickly for us to reach the hospital!) and it was such a fantastic experience to stay at home with just my husband and a wonderfully friendly ambulance crew entirely dedicated to looking after me. I don’t plan to have any more children, but given the stark contrast in my experiences, I would definitely opt for home birth in the future, and would encourage everyone to consider it seriously, and not be automatically persuaded by modern culture and media that a hospital birth is the only sensible option.

      morethanamummy responded:
      November 30, 2011 at 10:07 am

      Well said Fiona and yes this is totally about manipulating stats in my view!

    Colette Hickling said:
    November 30, 2011 at 9:54 am

    I’ve seen it from both sides. Im a mum of 4. I’ve had an amazing home birth which was calm & relaxed. And an induction at hospital which was a nightmare. To be honest, I wouldn’t choose a home birth for my 1st. Just because I didn’t know how I would cope with the pain and wanted to keep my options open re: pain relief. I, like most 1st timers, was nervous and needed the reassurance of on- hand medical back up if it was needed. But I recommend home birth if you are having a healthy pregnancy.

    Older mum said:
    November 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Great post …. you are far more likely to end up having an assisted birth or c-section once you are on the cascade of induction at hospital. Speeding things up when the baby is not ready for it can and often does put baby under distress and voila c-section. Alot of it is about convenience and not really baring the mothers feelings in mind.

    Southoftherivermum said:
    November 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    A great post. I had my babies in hospital and had assisted delivery for first but my second and third were great. I had a midwife I knew and trusted and that made the biggest difference to me. I don’t care where I have my baby as long as I have the support I need. giving birth is the most amazing experience and I feel so lucky to have experienced it and that I have had three healthy and gorgeous babies!

    KB said:
    November 30, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I had both my children at home. They are now 2 and 4. Both experiences were great in terms of the care I received.

    The first time, we called the midwives, they came, they checked me over, and then drank tea and chatted for a couple of hours downstairs. That was great, as they could easily hear me, but weren’t watching my every move. When they could hear that the contractions had got worse, they came up and then stayed with me. When I had been 10cm for a while, they broke my waters for me. I tore badly, but they put me back together. (All of this on my own bed.) After they had helped me in to bed, they changed all of the sheets on our bed for me and tidied the room up. You literally would never had known what had happened. I found giving birth very painful indeed (and the tearing and sticthing afterwards) but know that I would have been ten times worse in hospital.

    19 months later I had my second daughter. By the time the midwives arrived I was ready to push, and Anna was born one and a half hours later. Again, I had to be stitched back together, but they were experts and did a brilliant job. (Both midwives this time were grandmothers, and were absolutely fantastic. I know I could not have been in better hands.) Once again, they helped me into my own bath, and changed all the sheets. We all had a cup of tea, and they left at 3.30am. My husband and I turned the light out, woke up the next morning and we’d had a baby!

    The fact that two midwives arrive and are with you the whole time – just for you – is fantastic. I have heard a lot horror stories of people just being left in hospital. I cannot advocate a home birth more strongly.

      morethanamummy responded:
      November 30, 2011 at 7:22 pm

      Wow what great experiences – even with the tearing!! 😉

    Not Just A Mummy said:
    November 30, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    both my babies were induced and both ended up being emergancy csection. i insisted on natural delivery for the second birth but it just didnt go that way. my first csection recovery was long and painful, the second i had quite a lot of morphine for the pain but i did recover quicker because of bed rest and extra oxygen after complications. i dont want to go thru that pain again and i have to say i do envy and admire mums who give birth naturally and quickly

    Confident Womb said:
    December 1, 2011 at 3:19 am

    Great post! My SIL is bound and determined to avoid a homebirth…primary reason, “because it’s her first”. Sigh, I’d be glad to see that myth debunked for once and for all. All that matter is what you want out of the birth…if you actually WANT a homebirth, then by golly, (barring real complications) you’ll have one and be glad you did!

    Leah Songhurst said:
    December 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Choosing where and how to give birth is a privilege. Indeed so is choosing not to give birth at all.

    Sadly despite the fact that ‘trillions of women’ are giving birth in what the author describes as circumstances that are ‘natural’ please consider this info from the World Health Organisation:

    Fact sheet N°348
    November 2010

    Key facts

    Every day, approximately 1000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
    99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
    Maternal mortality is higher in rural areas and among poorer and less educated communities.
    Adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women.
    Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.
    Between 1990 and 2008, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by one third.

    I gave birth to two healthy children in a hospital here in the North East and loved every moment of the experience. I am thankful for the expert skills of the staff concerned and I am grateful that I had access to pain relief, that I had privacy and that I am alive to tell the tale.

      morethanamummy responded:
      December 4, 2011 at 7:57 pm

      I actually think your point that ‘99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries’ underlines the point of my post – it is so safe to give birth in this country and as you say, a complete privilege, that is annoys me that out f context statistics can scare-monger women to have limited choices!!

    Leah Songhurst said:
    December 5, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Sadly it is not only stats that limit choice. The reality is that giving birth at home – should you choose to have support from NHS medical experts with you as opposed to going it alone using private (uninsured) support or indeed no support at all – is costly. It’s great when things go well (and fab if you have the right environment in which to give birth, such as your own home) but sadly when things go wrong (and they do) it costs far more to sort out.

    Midwives that I have spoken to regarding this (many who are coming up to retirement or have retired – I’m a sociologist who specialises in medical issues) mostly argue that home births were stressful for them and the lady involved.

    In todays times midwives also have to consider medical needs within a growing litigation culture.

    I am against medicalising all aspects of our life and indeed I am pro-choice within reason, but as a firm believer in the NHS I feel slightly uneasy about the fact that home births up here require two midwives (and should things turn nasty several more NHS staff members at hospital). What is wrong with choosing to use a midwife led centre? That way resources can be shared around.

    It’s ‘safe’ to give birth in this country because we have superb state funded anti natal care, we have great support during birth and we are relatively healthy at the point of getting pregnant and giving birth. For a women even today in Britain, giving birth is one of the most dangerous situations that she is likely to face and I for one am grateful for the medical support that I received both before, during and after giving birth.

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