Medieval medical practices have no place in the 21st century
By Janis McMath, Senior Columnist
There are many health fads that bother me, but one irks me in particular: Home births. I cannot understand how such an antiquated method of healthcare could still be in any sort of demand.
The reasons people list for wanting to give birth at home are generally: “It’s more comfortable”, “Being in a hospital room with strangers and beeping machines is nerve-wracking”, “I’m not sick, why should I be in the hospital?”, “Women should trust their bodies to be capable”, and “There was a study in Canada that confirmed that home births can be safer than hospitals because there is less intervention.”
Let me first talk about the comfort aspect. While it is fair that one would want to feel more comfortable about pooping and screaming while shoving a large human cranium out from inside of them, it is an unfortunate truth that childbirth is a dangerous procedure and it is not safe to do it outside of a hospital. In the past, women and newborns were constantly dying in childbirth complications. Even as recently as the ’60s, reported an article by The Guardian, women were protesting for more hospital beds because they wanted the safety of delivering in a hospital.
I’ve seen quotes from pro-home birth advocates along the lines of, “Women should trust their bodies to be capable of childbirth.” However, people should not trust their bodies implicitly to be capable because there are a whole host of potential complications while giving birth. In fact, as stated in an article by The Globe and Mail, “The BC Medical Association [has the] view that for the safety of mother and child, births should take place in hospitals or in birthing units linked to hospitals.” The BC Medical Association only advocates for home births if the mother is low-risk, and even then they still insist that giving birth in a hospital is best.
The fact that what is considered a high-risk pregnancy include conditions even as common as asthma is an easy reason to avoid these births. Further, even if you pass the screening of what is high and low risk, no one can promise you that your pregnancy is not high-risk. All pregnancies have the potential to go wrong. If there is a health risk involved, it only makes sense that you are at the hospital prior to delivering—then you minimize the risk by being close to all the equipment that might be necessary to save you or your child’s life. As we all know, fractions of a second can be what makes the difference when it comes to emergency health situations.
The second common argument which pro-home birth advocates use is that they can be “safer” than hospitals. As stated in The Globe and Mail article, Dr. Michael Klein, one of the authors of a 2009 study on home births with midwives, said that these births are safe (not safer) because of the medical care system in place made to support them—not because they have any actual benefits.
That study also said that planned home births under regulated midwives resulted in fewer interventions than planned hospital births—which is obvious. If you are looking at a sample of the population that is generally more low-risk for pregnancies, naturally they will need fewer interventions in their pregnancies. The study is not saying that having a home birth means that you’re less likely to face intervention in your pregnancy—it’s saying that if you are in this group of pre-screened, low-risk pregnant people (i.e., the healthiest possible to give birth), you probably will be less likely to need intervention in your pregnancy.
Lastly, even with all of Canada’s wonderful regulations in place to ensure that home birth is generally a very safe practice, it causes an unnecessary strain on the hospital and doctors. In the 2009 study mentioned above, researchers found that 20 to 30 percent of all home births end up going to the hospital. This means that either you did all the research for nothing and are just being driven to the hospital anyways, or you’re being driven at a high speed in an emergency vehicle and rushed through the emergency room.
In the above article by The Guardian, one mother giving birth at home even had to have two ambulances called—one for her and one for her newborn child. With this in mind, I would like to revisit the argument that home births are more comfortable. In reality, it’s only about 70 to 80 percent likely that it will be comfortable and 20 to 30 percent likely it will be much more stressful than just going to the hospital in the first place.
In my opinion, there are no reasons to have a home birth unless you are selfish about your comfort. If you live in a country that does not have regulations on giving birth at home, it can be very unsafe. Furthermore, if you are lucky enough to live in a country that has such a good healthcare system that it can even support you at home, do your healthcare system a damn favour and just go to the hospital to deliver your baby. Risking both your life and your child’s is not worth the payoff of sleeping in your own bed.
Home births are a selfish choice riddled with risks I don’t think anyone should be willing to take with their newborn child. Modern medicine is only trying to do right by everyone, yet people are still so skeptical. Deliver your baby at a hospital… and get vaccinated.