I recently read an interesting article called “How to Make Home Birth a Safer Option“. After I finished the article, I was surprised to find out that it was written by a pediatrics professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, because it advocated that giving birth in a hospital is not the only safe option for many women. I was also surprised to find out just how different the U.S. is from the U.K. when it comes to ideas on birth location. The U.K. makes more use of home births and has a better system in place to coordinate interactions between home births and the hospital. I realized that this system really makes a lot of sense.
I remember hearing in class that hospitals have a C-section rate of about 20-30% of all deliveries. I thought that was really high. The high rate of C-sections and other inventions like induced labor in U.S. hospitals has always concerned me, but I assumed hospitals were still clearly the best option. However, as I read the article I started to reevaluate what I would want if I was about to go into labor. I began surfing the internet for various birthing options and discovered there is a lot more to choose from than I thought. Hospitals are vastly more common, but birthing centers and home births are growing in popularity. If I was having a low risk pregnancy, I would likely pick a birthing center because it seems to be a nice median between a hospital and a home. A birthing center is a home-like facility that focuses on giving the mother the control over her own delivery, while still having the assurance of being in a healthcare system with an experienced midwife. Birthing centers are stand alone facilities separate from hospitals, but are often located on or near the hospital premises in case something goes wrong during labor. These centers can also be more cost effective than hospitals because they reduce the likelihood of using costly surgical procedures, unless absolutely necessary. More info on birthing centers can be found here.
Unfortunately, not all expectant mothers have the option of using birthing centers due to their limited prevalence and the mother’s health. If she has a preexisting health problem or is experiencing a difficult pregnancy, I think a hospital would still be her best option. However, if a mother is healthy I believe her doctor should thoroughly inform her of all her options and the pros and cons of each. Hospitals, home births, and birthing centers are all valid options. Additionally, I believe birthing centers should be more prevalent and widespread to decrease the high amount of medical intervention at hospitals. Don’t get me wrong, medical intervention is extremely important and is life saving, but I feel it is often overused. Many developed countries preform less C-sections than the U.S., while still having low infant mortality rates.
Ideally, I would like hospitals to only use medical intervention when it’s necessary and to restructure their labor units to mimic a birthing facility, which allows mothers to have more control over their deliveries. The expecting mother should be able to be comfortable and shouldn’t have to conform to the rigid structure enforced in current labor units.
Cultural Fun Fact!
In Japan, women in labor very rarely use any epidurals or other painkillers. It has a lot to do with the Buddhist belief that naturally enduring the pain acts as a test to see if the woman is prepared for the struggles of being a mother.