Guest Writers, Home Birth Safety

Home Birth: “Brave” Has Nothing To Do With It

147 Comments 29 March 2010

Morgan, co-director of North Metro Birth & Breastfeeding Coalition

Guest post by Morgan A. McLaughlin McFarland

When hearing the news that I had my last baby at home and am planning to have this one at home as well, the first response from most people is, “You’re so brave.”

This has to be one of the most irritating things that people say to homebirthers. The implication is that birth is dangerous and that we are willing to take on a tremendous risk to do it anywhere but a hospital.

It negates the research and planning that we’ve done to come to this decision. It makes the choice about balls, not brains. After all, homebirth is “dangerous.” Hospital birth is “safe.” Therefore, it must be bravado alone that would lead a woman to choosing such an option. Right?

In 2003, over 20% of women had their labors induced, with a rate closer to 40% in many hospitals, while that rate should not exceed 10% (and has remained at 10% in most industrialized nations).

Inductions are approximately 5 times more likely among planned hospital births than planned homebirths. An 1999 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology “Green Journal” review of 7000 inductions found that 3 out of 4 of the inductions were not medically necessary.

Inductions are performed unnecessarily for estimated size of the baby (too large or too small), going past the estimated due date, amniotic fluid levels that are low but not critically low (correctable in nearly all cases by rehydration of the mother), rupture of membranes without immediate start of labor, the mother being dilated/effaced but not in active labor, or scheduling reasons on the part of the mother or care provider.

Approximately 40-50% of inductions fail (depending on the induction method used and the mother’s Bishop score), and most failed inductions end in cesarean section. Inductions increase labor pain and length, and create, among other problems, an increased risk of fetal distress, uterine rupture, and cesarean section.

But homebirth is “dangerous.” Hospital birth is “safe.”

Over 30% of women in the US have cesarean sections, while overwhelming research has led the World Health Organization to set an ideal standard rate of cesarean sections at 10-12%, with 15% being the rate where more harm is being done instead of good. Cesareans are performed at a similar rate across all risk groups, low to high. The cesarean rate for planned births at home or in an independent birthing center is approximately 4%.

Cesarean sections increase the likelihood of maternal death by as much as 4 times, and have other immediate and long-term heath risks for mothers that include, but are not limited to, infection, bowel or bladder perforation, hysterectomy, future infertility, and increased risk of uterine rupture for future pregnancies.

Risks for the baby include respiratory distress, fetal injury, prematurity (if result of scheduled section or failed induction), and breastfeeding difficulties.

Four of the greatest causes for the increase in cesarean section are overuse of interventions during labor, concern for malpractice/liability on the part of care providers, failed labor inductions, and “failure to progress” (labor not progressing fast enough or regularly enough for care providers).

But homebirth is “dangerous” and hospital birth is “safe.”

The ACOG and AMA have both come out against homebirthing, calling it a dangerous trend and referring to it as a “fashionable, trendy, [...] the latest cause célèbre,” and they paint a horrible picture of complications arising in low-risk pregnancies with no warning that cannot be handled anywhere but the hospital.

Despite that, the most thorough study ever done on homebirth safety, Kenneth C Johnson and Betty-Anne Daviss’s Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America, BMJ 2005;330:1416 (18 June), found that the outcomes of planned homebirths for low risk mothers were the same as the outcomes of planned hospital births for low risk mothers, with a significantly lower incident of interventions in the homebirth group.

The Lewis Mehl Study of home and hospital births, which matched couples in each group for age, parity, education, race, and pregnancy/birth risk factors, found the hospital group had 9 times the rate of episiotomies and tearing, 3 times the cesarean rate, 6 times the fetal distress, 2 times the use of oxytocin for induction/augmentation, 9 times the use of analgesia/anesthesia, 5 times the rate of maternal blood pressure increase, 3 times the rate of maternal hemorrhage, 4 times the rate of infection, 20 times the rate of forceps use, and 30 times teh rate of birth injuries (including skull fractures and nerve damage).

Breastfeeding success rates are higher and postpartum depression rates are lower for planned homebirths.

But homebirth is “dangerous” and hospital birth is “safe.”

The United States spends more per pregnancy/birth than any other country, the vast majority of women in the US give birth in hospitals, and yet the US’s maternal death rate is the worst among 28 industrialized nations and the neonatal mortality rate is the second worst.

The Netherlands, where 36% of babies are born at home, has lower maternal and neonatal mortality rates than the US. Denmark, where all women have access to the option for a safe and legal home birth, has one of the lowest maternal and neonatal mortality rates.

But homebirth is “dangerous,” hospital birth is “safe,” and Brutus is an honorable man.

I didn’t choose a homebirth because I am brave. Bravery has little to do with it. If anything, I believe women who choose to give birth in US hospitals are the brave ones, because knowing what I know about our technocratic obstetrical system, I can’t imagine voluntarily choosing an obstetrician and a hospital for anything but absolute medical necessity.

My decision to homebirth wasn’t made in a void, but based upon years of research. I wonder how much research the average woman puts into her hospital birth?

Considering how many times I’ve heard someone say “I’m glad I was in the hospital because…” and then given as her reason a non-emergent situation (such as fetal size or nuchal cords), I’d say not that much.

Call me stubborn, because I wasn’t willing to accept out of hand the culturally held belief that hospitals are safer.

Call me an idealist, because I believe that birth can be a positive, safe, and empowering experience for child and mother.

Call me a nonconformist, because I choose to birth at home in defiance of a powerful technocratic system.

Call me outspoken, because I can’t keep my mouth shut when I hear about yet another iatrogenic birth calamity.

Call me a “birth nazi,” because I believe it’s the right and responsibility of every woman to educate herself about birth and take ownership of her birth experience.

But brave? Don’t call me brave. “Brave” has nothing to do with it.

Morgan is a freelance writer and co-director of North Metro Birth & Breastfeeding Coalition. Email Morgan at morgan@mcfamilies.com

Read Morgan’s follow up article, “Birth Safety as a Binary Condition.”

Your Comments

147 Comments so far

  1. V says:

    I always took hearing that I was “brave” for birthing at home as a reference to the fact that there will be no pain meds options at home. The bravery comes in being able to birth without drug help. But I think there are enough people who imply what you’re getting at as well, so thanks for breaking this down for us and helping to debunk myths.

  2. Alice Trask says:

    “You’re so Brave” is one of my favorite lines…the other is “What if something goes wrong?”
    Awesome article!!!

  3. Tarraguna says:

    I love this post. I totally agree with you about thinking people who have their birth at the hospital being brave. I was not frightened at all about having my child at home with a midwife and a doula but I was petrified of having to go to the hospital.

  4. Busca says:

    Well said, Morghan!

  5. Sharon says:

    You have so succinctly said what I have always wanted to voice…I too answer the bravery comment with hwo brave they are to go to a hospital LOL Too many women who give up their power and don’t want to see it for what it realy is :::sigh:::

  6. Lisa says:

    I love this post. I know this was a guest post, but after looking around, I think that you are my newest favorite blogger!

  7. Girlieeee says:

    See, I see it from a completely different view….as do other people in different “shoes” than yours. It is brave to do it where there is no emergent care.

    I personally had two birth experiences that had I done a home birth, may have proved to be fatal for my children.

    My first son was born with a heart murmur that may not have been detected if I had not been in a hospital. He was rushed at 2 weeks in heart failure for Valveoplasti and again at 6 weeks.
    My second son was born with a rare brain malformation and had seizures in-utero.

    While home birthing may be a great thing for you, you may want to reconsider advising people to do it at home.

    PLeASE consider the possible consequences of the decision of having a child in a place where there is no emergency medical care.

  8. Jessica says:

    May I just say that I at least in part “get” why you choose to have a home birth and your article was very informative. Where you have your baby should definitely be your decision. But for me, my daughter probably would have died if she had been born at home. We had no idea before her birth that she would need medical help. Actually, a midwife delivered her…just in the hospital. All I’m saying is that there are risks in giving birth at home that you might not have in giving birth in a hospital. While giving birth in a hospital may not be ideal…it was definitely the right choice for us.

  9. Nandi says:

    Well Said!!!
    It’s not about bravery…it’s about not waiting for your kid to be home after birth to start giving it the best start in life. I believe in starting during pregnancy and birth.
    People are always able to rattle off the risks and quiz you on home birth…but…when you turn it around and ask them if they have looked at the statistics in the other direction, you get a blank stare…drives me nuts.
    I know people who as adults still struggle with the emotional trauma from an aggressive and invasive birth.
    People think babies don’t know any better and that they forget…well, I have news for them…babies are much smarter and remember a lot more than we think.
    I call people “brave” who are willing to be just a number in a labor unit, rather than a powerful women surrounded by love, acceptance, peace and support…
    Thank you for this article! I will pass it on :)

  10. Meg says:

    I get called brave too. My hospital births left me with 2 c/secs and a stillbirth. I always say to people wo say that I’m brave “Going to hospital is braver. At home I know EXACTLY what they’re gonna do to me – offer me water, help me into bed after the baby is born, and bring me toast”

  11. Alexia says:

    I had 3 c-sections… because I was stupid and uneducated. there was NO emergency. My water bag was leaking… had I done ANY research at all I would have drank TONS of water. lol

    but I get soooo hurt when people give up their rights… give up their births…. URG!

    Just today a young friend of mine (who’s sister is a OB nurse, and who’s mom is against home birth) mentions ~in casual conversation~ that she’ll be going in to get induced ON her due date!! WHY?!? because “the baby is big, and the baby is ready to come out, but I’m not dialating”

    I hope that even HALF of what I told her sticks.

  12. Daja says:

    Tell it!!!!!

    (I’m a six time homebirth mommy, who was born at home herself!)

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I don’t think women who birth at home are brave any more than I think women who choose to have their babies in a hospital are wimps, or uneducated. Articles like this just cause grief. Home birth is wonderful, but it is not for everyone. No woman should be put down, made to feel less than, or snubbed because of her choice. Anyway, being called “brave” should be something that is embraced, not vilified. I love to be called “brave”. It’s a compliment. Being offended by it is silly.

    Hospital births can be joyous and blessed. You can educate yourself on how to have the best birth ever in a hospital. It doesn’t have to be industry driven if you take the steps to create the environment you want.

    My third son, born prematurely at 29 weeks, would have died without the hospital.

  14. Willy Flom says:

    Thanks for including many insights and the inclusion of statistics and emotions in this article. It is important for us to really look at the numbers and make a conscious choice without simply trusting in the medical profession. I was a midwife for many years and had my babies at home. My oldest baby is now a mom with two home-born cuties of her own. It’s great to see the torch for home birth being carried.

  15. Chrissy says:

    Well said. I am not brave for birthing my baby at home I am a woman, I am healthy (not sick) and I am designed to birth, its that simple!!!! I would be brave to step outside my front door and risk a roadsidebirth or enter the hospital system and leave with scars and possibly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Post Natal Depression and a baby fed on formula.

  16. Helena says:

    My first baby was born in a private hospital where I thought it had to be done. I was induced, given gas, pethidine injection & finally an epidural that didn’t numb everything as it should have. Then the OB had to use the ventouse to extract my little girl. Did all of this intervention lead to her having seizures later in life & ultimately dying when she was on 13 months old? I’ll never know, but that experience was enough to make me research my little heart out & I didn’t want to go near a hospital or a doctor if it could be avoided for my next birth.

    My second baby was born at home with a birthing pool & two midwives in attendance after a 4 hour labour, no painkillers required. The only hiccup was my placenta wouldn’t release & eventually I had to go to hospital & have a general anaesthetic.
    The only reason I think this happened was my pubis symphisis joint was excruciatingly painful after the birth & I just couldn’t relax. (I’m also think some emotional scars from my first baby dying would have had some impact on this birth.)
    So even with a homebirth, with qualified & experienced midwives present, complications can be dealt with.
    24 hours in hospital was all I needed to once & for all confirm that hospital staff can’t help but be interventionist despite my protestations. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
    If we are to be blessed with a third baby, I’ll start hypnobirthing classes right from the beginning to really get my head in the right space & the birth will be at home & free of complications.

    My only wish is that women (& their partners) become aware of the options available to them when it comes to the pregnancy, birth and ongoing health care for their baby & not use the default setting of following what the medical profession tells them is “normal”.

  17. bringbirthhome says:

    First of all, I’d like to say thank you for all of your thoughtful and emotional responses.

    While Morgan’s post provides facts about commonly used and often unnecessary interventions as well as information about home birth, she also shares her sentiment – and not all may agree.

    I am certain Morgan is aware home birth is not for everyone and appreciates modern medicine for those moments when it is truly necessary.

    Those who home birth, (less than 1% of women in this country) often guard themselves and feel the need to defend their choice.

    Morgan’s article touches on a nerve for many women who have birthed at home, dealing with the look and words of shock & awe and surprise when this information is shared.

    Again, I thank all of you for your comments. If you’re interested in learning about how you can have a home-like hospital birth, specifically if you’d like to birth at home but are unable for one reason or another, please read my previous post: http://bringbirthhome.com/home-birth-safety/what-to-do-when-youre-unable-to-birth-at-home/

    Sincerely,
    Kaitlin Rose

  18. Daniele says:

    What a well-written, passionate post!
    You’ve hit the nail on the head, and have expressed a concept I’ve never been able to properly put into words.

  19. Carolyn says:

    Fabulous, funny, confronting and real. Thanks Morgan. I love the photo too. For those that are interested, midwives can detect heart murmurs, abnormalities and difficulties that need attention. Interestingly, with good midwifery care antenatally, many of the problems, such a premature birth, do not occur. Mothers and their babies are healthier and birth is safer with midwives at home.

  20. Melissa says:

    That was an awesome article!!! I heard the brave thing so many times while I was pregnant! I agree with Tarraguna, I also was not the least bit scared to have my baby at home, but was terrified to go to the hospital for any reason. I prayed everyday that no complications would come up in my pregnancy and ate healthy, exercised and tried to take care of my body as best as I could. I believe that people don’t think of pregnancy as a time to sacrifice what you want and think about the fact that you are growing something very precious. Pregnancy isn’t the time to say you are eating for two, but to make sure you are feeding you and the baby the healthiest foods possible and staying hydrated. I believe if you take care of you and the baby while pregnant you can prevent a lot of problems that might arise.

  21. Jane says:

    I think home birth is a wonderful way to birth. I would like to see some education on birth rights. I live in GA and A CPM has not held a license since the 1960′s. I wanted to have a homebirth for my fourth child. The CPM that I wanted to use had to be extremely cautious. She required that I see an OB and her. At my 20 week ultrasound my fluid level was a little high and she ruled out that I did not need to have a home birth. I was disappointed for a while but a new baby was the best outcome.
    I was educated in preparing for a natural birth, which I had done before. I was fortunate to have a L&D nurse that honored my birth plan and had 2 home births in the 70′s. I was able to eat, and drink, while in labor in the hospital and did not have to push in stirrups or until I was ready. Obviously this was not the norm because all the nurses told me WTG for having a drug free birth. That I found as sad.
    I think the most important thing for all pregnant women is to be well educated about the birth process. Most women that have home births are well educated about the natural process of birth and therefore successful.

  22. Jen says:

    I had the fortunate experience of delivering in a hospital with my wonderful midwife. I expect I had a similar birthing experience to a home birth (although I’m making that up as I’ve never had that experience or known anyone very well who has)!!
    I did not have pain medicine, my room was dimly lit and relaxing, my husband and midwife were very encouraging and the birth was relitavely easy and quick.
    There are alternatives for people who may be uncomfortable giving birth at home. To be honest, I would never consider that option – for reasons unknown to me it completely freaks me out (in general the whole birth process does, and while I know it’s a beatiful, natural thing, I haven’t been able to change my mind)!!
    Incidently I was induced with this birth (I am only one of a very few in the care of my midwife who has been as she does not under normal circumstances see any reason for induction) because my daughter had stopped moving and although she still had a strong heartbeat, she wouldnt move for 2 days. When she was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped 3 times around her neck, which freaked me out but apparently isnt too much of a problem as she is healthy and fine!
    Thank you for your thought provoking article and I agree that women should be well educated in making their decision about birth!

  23. red pomegranate says:

    As a labor and delivery nurse who chose homebirth twice I feel fairly irritated when an article which was both articulate and backed up by good data is dismissed out of hand and not even really well comprehended by the few women here who felt the need to poo poo it.

    Trained, skilled midwives (both lay and nurse) are likely better at addressing normal variations in birth and possibly more attuned to abnormal variations BECAUSE normal birth is what they do! I’ve known of skilled midwifes who have picked up on heart anomalies inutero because they know what to listen for, what is normal and what is not. This, after a doctor had dismissed her concerns! Twice!

    Do you actually believe that some second year resident (which by the way, is the person more likely to deliver your baby if you’re in a teaching hospital) knows more than a woman who has been caring for women for two decades, though she may lack an MD behind her name?

    Wake up women of America! Doctors are not your saviors and the medical birth model is not the safest way to have a baby!

  24. Elizabeth says:

    @Girlieeee said:

    “While home birthing may be a great thing for you, you may want to reconsider advising people to do it at home.”

    This isn’t an article advising anyone to have a home birth. If anything, Morghan is advising women to simply educate themselves about birth and take an active role in planning the labor and birth of their baby in a place that they feel comfortable with. For her, that was at home.

  25. V says:

    Someone made a comment about their child not being able to survive at 29 weeks if they had been born at home. Homebirthers don’t usually give birth to premature babies at home.

  26. Gerri says:

    What about when the child needs medical attention?

  27. Sarah says:

    Home birth should not be looked at as brave, but as STUPID!!! if something goes wrong and your baby is injured or dies it is the mothers fault. I would never take the risk. Put the baby first not yourself.

  28. cathicog says:

    Great article! Couldn’t have said it better myself! Wake up, America! Know your options, you have more than you realize, and American hospitals are GENERALLY not a safe place to relax and open up…would you make love in a hospital room? Same thing. Unless absolutely medically necessary(and a midwife is usually more well-versed in what normal is) women should be where they will be allowed to be themselves- at home…if you have to transport, then usually it’s for a very good reason. But start out at home, first…

  29. Anne says:

    I think dismissing something out-of-hand without anything to back it up is “stupid” I am not really sure why you would even be reading this blog if that is your point of view.
    Home birth is not for everyone. Some for true medical risks, some because without the faith that birth is inherently safe, it won’t happen anyway. I think the article points to women and families knowing the options, the risks and the benefits to all places of birth and having the ability to make informed decisions without being called names.

  30. Dawn says:

    I have never birthed at home, but have finally gotten to the point where I have a midwife at birth and not an OB or family doctor. I have had 7 at the hospital. I would say the term “brave” to me means that you are strong willed enough to stick up for yourself and your baby against all that pressure to “be normal.” Even though I know how it will be at the hospital, I still have my babies there for the NICU just in case and also because I just cannot imagine planning my birth at home. I admire people who do have birth at home, but I just cannot do it. I do insist on unmedicated birth and as much control as I can get. I do feel the nurses get to see a low intervention birth and it’s rare these days, so I feel good being at the hospital…but honestly, I am not “that brave” about birth.

  31. Janelle says:

    It’s funny that a natural homebirth would be called ‘stupid’. Many hospitals pressure mothers (first timers especially) into drugs for pain, drugs for induction, etc. Don’t you spend nine months keeping that stuff OUT of your system? How are those interventions ‘putting your baby first?’ I’d like to think homebirths put the baby first, as opposed to the hospitals that are trying to turn a profit during your stay!

  32. donna says:

    are there references for this article somewhere? i can’t seem to find them. i am all for home birthing and would like to use this article as somewhere i can send people. but i need references…

  33. Raeanne says:

    Sarah, if you looked at the statistics, you would know how STUPID your comment sounds. Home births are statistically SAFER for healthy moms and babies.
    Gerri- if the baby needs medical attention, you call 911 and go to the hospital. Personally, for me, I would not feel as comfortable with the idea of homebirth if I did not live 5 minutes away from the hospital.
    I am one of those who could say (and has said) my baby would have died if born at home. And she really would have, it’s not just crazy speculation. Her umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around her neck, and as the doctor tried to unwrap it, it pulled completely off of her body, so she bled uncontrollably. However this isn’t something that commonly happens, and happened to her because of the birth defect that she had (she had a hole in her abdominal wall, so the insertion point for the cord was not very strong) And we were planning a homebirth, up until 28 weeks when I had an ultrasound and we found out about her birth defect.
    Homebirth is safe for healthy moms and healthy babies. No one suggests that EVERYONE should have a homebirth, especially those who are at-risk for or have health concerns.

  34. Raeanne says:

    Oh, and Sarah, if you give birth in a hospital and your baby is injured or dies, whose fault is it then??

  35. Andrea says:

    Sarah,

    What matters most is that at the end of the experience both mama and baby are healthy. Mentally, emotionally as well as physically.

    Unfortunately most American hospitals are not set up to address all of those three facets of health – just the one. Please understand that women who chose to birth at home are not putting themselves first – but rather putting their family first.

    Please refrain from using degrading language, as it not only brings down the beautiful message of this post, but it also reflects poorly on yourself. It is absolutely fine that you disagree, but I wonder why you bothered to waste your time on material that seems to only make yourself upset? I’m sure there are plenty of other blogs out there that align more closely with your personal philosophy – perhaps you should find your way onto one of those?

  36. Gerri says:

    Sarah, how much do you want to bet that our comments get deleted?

  37. proudheartma says:

    I always find the comments “you are selfish to have a homebirth, what if your baby dies?” Very interesting, and it screams about the lack of education from the person that makes that comment.

    A midwife is trained to spot anything remotely high risk and you then get “risked out” of a homebirth as it has been decided medically neccessary to go to the hospital.

    I don’t know a single Mother who would knowingly put their baby in harms way. If they have a medical condition or their baby has a medical condition that NEEDS medical treatment/hospital attention, They GO!

    Homebirth is for healthy women and babies. If the unfortunate situation arises that the baby dies, it is due to some weird abnormality that the circumstances would not have changed one iota birthing in the hospital.

    If an emergency comes up during labor or after labor that the midwife feels needs more medical attention… you transport to the hospital.

    But I must reiterate, transport rates with an experienced and knoweldegable midwife are very low, as they take on clients that are healthy and progessing along with normal pregnancies. Home birth is very safe for normal low risk pregnancies, when it becomes unsafe and medically neccessary, you go to a hospital.

    I was very edcuated with my first baby, and chose a hospital birth with a midwife, thinking I could combat the interventions due to all my research… in the throes of labor when all your strength should be focused on labor, I gave up fighting. The most traumatic part of my hospital experience was actually after birth, where I had to fight with nurses to get my daughter back from the nursery that they took her to under pretense that she “needed oxygen for looking limp.” But my husband followed and oxygen was never given, they stuck her in a heat lamp, and I was furious calling and calling telling the nurses my body heat and skin-to-skin contact would be better than some stupid heat lamp. I then had to fight to keep my daughter with me and for the nurse to not force feed her formula because she just wanted to sleep, and her blood sugar was fine!!

    I am not brave for choosing a homebirth with this new baby, I consider myself better educated and wanting a restful and peaceful time with my new babe, instead of arguing with nurses the whole two days after birth that should have been sent resting and bonding!!

    Do your research before making statements that have no evidence to back it up.

  38. Darcel says:

    I think the reason people say “your so brave” is simply because they are misinformed. Anything that is outside of the mainstream is looked at as weird, and people are stupid for doing it.

    It also annoys me when people tell me I’m brave for birthing at home, and I feel they are brave for birthing in the hospital. Birth is a big business now. There are very few Dr’s or Midwives who actually put the baby first anymore.
    I can say that because my first was born in the hospital, and it was a very traumatic experience.

    I love blogs like this, and other sites that are helping to spread the word on homebirth.

    I don’t believe it’s for everyone, but I do believe everyone needs to have all of the correct information to make a informed choice.

  39. Stephanie says:

    Homebirth stupid? Ugh. An educated and informed choice to birth (in hospital or at home) is certainly not “stupid”. I wonder as Morgahn does how many women truly choose conscious hospital births.

    Sarah, when babies and mothers die in hospitals (which happens at a higher rate in hospital than at home per 1000 births by the way) do you still choose to place blame with the mother? In California, maternal death rate among hospital births are at an all time high. Mother’s fault?

    Losing a mother or baby is tragic, always, wherever it happens (it just happens more often in hospitals) and it doesn’t help to heal that by placing blame on a mother.

    Don’t think for a moment this isn’t an area many home birthing parents thoughtfully and emotionally consider. Do you put that same consideration into your hospital birth with its high rate of infection and death?

    And it is best for baby in addition to being best for mom…in my humble home birthing opinion :o )

  40. Morgan McFarland says:

    I object to “brave” when it’s obviously being used as a substitute for “crazy.” Maybe you haven’t had this experience, but I’ve had quite a few conversations where, upon hearing I gave birth at home (twice now, as the baby I was pregnant with when I wrote this article is now a year old!) sort of gasp and say, “You’re so BRAVE” as though they really want to say, “What are you? Crazy?!?!”

    I’d also like to clear up that I am not an advocate of homebirth above all other things, no matter the circumstances. I am not even anti-hospital, though I would never give birth there without medical indication. My biggest issue with hospital birthing is when women birth there, not because they’ve made an educated choice or are acting on what feels right for them, but because that’s just what you do, because it’s culturally “normal.” Whether you choose home or hospital, you should make that choice based on research (about the risks and benefits), on intuition (where does your gut say you need to be), and with a willingness to change that choice based if the need arises.

    I’ll be providing labor support for my dearest friend this May. She is having a hospital birth due to the potential of complications from her fibroids. She researched her options and the hospital was the best choice for her situation and her comfort level. I support her decision completely, not because I agree with her choices (I do agree, but it doesn’t matter if I do or not), but because she empowered and educated herself to make those choices.

  41. Morgan McFarland says:

    Sarah, I’m sorry you feel the need to lash out on this topic. Your comment suggests that you aren’t familiar with the research supporting homebirth as a safe choice for low risk women. I hope you will take the time to read the data and educate yourself before you label other women as selfish or stupid.

  42. Julie says:

    I had to be induced *gasp* and it was wonderful. I went all natural even though they gave me pitocin. My son was getting way big, and he was way late (3 weeks) and I had been dialeted to 5cm and effaced to 80% for over 6 weeks. I think there is nothing wrong with it. I did not have to go in for a c-section in fact, I was only in labor for 5 hours (AND with my first child!). The fact that you said induction makes for longer labors is bogus…they can up you pitocin and make it all go faster. I know SEVERAL women who have been induced and they were faster births.
    Now I am not saying…lets all go get induced (I didn’t really want to be) but I had to be…I would not have been able to have my son vaginally and naturally had I not been. I don’t think anything is wrong with it…Now if you get induced just because you want your baby born on a certain day..then yeah…shame on you…but other than that “BREAK MY WATER BABY!!!”

  43. Girlieeee says:

    For those that are having a birth in a hospital, look at the history of YOUR doctor. I have had 3 successful vaginal births with some complications each time. The last time I thought for sure they would take me for emergency C-section because my BP and the baby’s heart rate were dropping. It was never mentioned. I had him with no problem and he is a healthy and happy “nearly” two year old. I’m not saying the hospital is the ONLY way, but while some doctors may be eager to do a c-section that is not true of all doctors. The health of your baby is what is MOST important. Sometimes you just don’t know the outcome. As one poster said earlier, she had 6 successful home births with no medical issues, BRAVO! But, that isn’t always how it goes. EACH person needs to take into consideration what is best for THEMSELVES and whether or not they want to risk it.

    That being said, IT IS BRAVE to have a child at home. NOT because you are willing to feel the pain of childbirth, but because you are willing to put the safety of modern medicine aside and do it your way.

    I wanted to do a home birth. But I am glad that I didn’t. I don’t know that he would have died, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to find out. I’m 35 and have heard hundreds of birth stories. Too many times I have heard “thank god we were at a hospital because my baby almost died.”

    I am glad that my post wasn’t taken down (Gina, another “feminist” took this post off her wall) because you seem to understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and not all choices are the same for each person. Obviously Gina doesn’t understand that you can be friends AND have different views. I said nothing offensive, just that the safety of my own child comes first.

    If I offended you, I am sorry. I just think that everyone should see both sides of the story. As some of your posters mentioned, they agree that home isn’t their choice.

  44. Sarah – sometimes babies die. Sometimes they die at home, and sometimes they die at the hospital. Usually, it is no one’s fault.

    What is it about being in a hospital that automatically makes a mom not responsible for the healthcare choices that she makes?

  45. Sarah says:

    I had 3 beautiful homebirths, and my last baby was born in the hospital. Long story!!! I feel I was brave for facing my fear, and having my baby in the hospital. It went really well. We had a great midwife who left us alone, and our baby was born in the pool into my hands. We were very blessed <3

  46. Hayley says:

    Sarah, this is probably THE most ignorant and mindless post I have ever read!

    I challenge you to actually research the subject of home birth and find out the facts before so rudely expressing your opinion. Had you expressed your views on home birth in more of an interlectual and polite mannor, then maybe you would actually be taken seriously! You clearly do not understand what you are talking about.
    After endless research I made the decision to have my son at home, this was most certainly not a decison made out of ‘stupidity’, but one made based on fact and careful consideration. I was also influenced by a friend who is a midwife, and her words to me were ‘your far safer at home than in any hospital’! Were it not safe in the opinion of my caregivers, then I would have not chosen to give birth at home. However they were hugely supportive and agreed that as my pregnancy was straight forward and without complication, this was the best option for me. Its your responsibility as a women and mother to make educated decisions best for both mother and baby, and thats exactely what i did! My son was born at home, after 7 hours in labour, without the use of pain relief, in a calm,clean,happy and safe environment, I am proud to have brought my child into the world this way!

  47. Jenn says:

    I think this was an excellent article.

    I have been told once that I’m brave for deciding to have a homebirth. I dismissed the comment. I am not having a homebirth to be brave, to go against the norm, to be selfish, or any of that. I am having a homebirth because I feel, after doing years of research, that this is the best choice for my unborn baby. I know what it’s like to give birth in a hospital, I’ve been there and done that, and unless there is a complication with either myself or baby, I will not be doing that again.

  48. Morgan McFarland says:

    Gerri, I hope you will notice that, though this blog has moderated comments, the dissenting comments have all been approved. I asked that they be, because discourse on this topic is important.

    However, if you are going to post comments with the goal of inciting conflict where there is none–such as stating that your dissenting opinions are going to be deleted, when they had to be approved by a moderator to show up at all–I will request *those* comments be removed. It will be up to the moderator to do that, but that would be my request.

    Keep it civil. I’d also appreciate it if no one (regardless of where you choose to birth) calls another woman “stupid” here.

  49. Smile says:

    Great post, thanks :)

    I too (after years of planning & researching) felt no fear of my planned homebirth but was petrified at the thought of a hospital birth.

    I did go on to have a hospital birth… thankfully with my wonderful homebirth midwives by my side. Isn’t that what the hospitals are meant to be there for… for when they are needed!

    I can’t wait to plan my next birth… again planned to be a homebirth :)

  50. Nicole says:

    What a great article. I had my fourth baby at home after much research and discussion. I felt it was the safest option for me and my baby.
    In response to Sarah who posted just before me, MOST women who choose homebirth ARE putting their baby’s first. I have to wonder if you actually read the article? Who’s to blame if the baby is injured or dies in a hospital? That logic isn’t reasonable. Baby’s die ALL THE TIME. INJURIES happen more often in a hospital setting than at home. The stats are clear – homebirth is safe.


Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Home Birth: “Brave” Has Nothing To Do With It | Bring Birth Home -- Topsy.com - March 30, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Toni Raquel and fit40four, Birthra. Birthra said: RT @ToniRaquel: RT @bringbirthhome Home Birth: “Brave” Has Nothing To Do With It http://bit.ly/97Dc2j #homebirth #birth [...]

  2. uberVU - social comments - March 30, 2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by BringBirthHome: BringBirthHome welcomes first guest blogger…http://bringbirthhome.com/home-birth-safety/home-birth-brave-has-nothing-to-do-with-it/

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  4. Birth Safety as a Binary Condition | Bring Birth Home - April 1, 2010

    [...] Read Morgan’s previous post, “Home Birth: “Brave” Has Nothing To Do With It.” [...]

  5. Tweets that mention Home Birth: “Brave” Has Nothing To Do With It | Bring Birth Home -- Topsy.com - April 1, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Candace McCollett. Candace McCollett said: Home Birth: “Brave” Has Nothing To Do With It http://bit.ly/bJJDaJ [...]

  6. That Wife » Blog Archive » Brain Dump VI - April 3, 2010

    [...] any pregnant women out there. Am I Brave for Choosing Home Birth? I don’t think so, and this article does a fantastic job articulating why. The Photography Parlour I follow Rosie Parson’s on [...]

  7. Preparing for Natural Hospital Birth vs. Home Birth | Bring Birth Home - December 14, 2010

    [...] A common comment, (sometimes a broken record) those planning on giving birth at home, or have birthed at home, hear is “you’re so brave!” [...]

  8. Navigating the BBH Blog - A Road Map | Bring Birth Home - January 20, 2011

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  9. The Birth Wars - February 6, 2012

    [...] I also got lots of “wow, you are so BRAVE!” and I thought that was interesting too. I didn’t feel that I had an extra amount of courage than the average woman. I didn’t feel like I had special powers that others did not. This is another article I like, titled Home Birth: Brave Has Nothing To Do With It. [...]

  10. Home Birthers & Hopefuls! - Page 1118 - BabyandBump - February 18, 2012

    [...] know what you're saying but there is really nothing brave about giving birth at home be it our first or thirteenth child. Some would say it's brave giving birth in hospital given the [...]

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