Carly and I were born 9 days apart, and since then we have done everything together. All of our childhood and adolescent milestones were taken together; even our weddings were less than a month apart. When Carly announced her pregnancy, I freaked. This immediate exposure to this mysterious process of pregnancy and childbirth became very real to me as the girl who grew up with me and shared every milestone of life is pregnant. The only experience I have with pregnancy was my little brother when I was three—mom went to the hospital with a big tummy and then came back with a baby. Since then no pregnant woman or young infant came into close contact with me. Because of this lack of experience, I had no knowledge about the miracle of life. I decided that I could no longer remain ignorant of this very real fact of life and I researched the topic thoroughly using credible, unbiased sources.
In Western nations, childbirth practices have changed dramatically since the beginning of the industrialized revolution (Berk 2009: 109). Since the turn of the 20th century, childbirth moved to be in hospitals and doctors largely assumed responsibility for childbirth. In effect, women’s knowledge of it declined and extended relatives and friends no longer participated (Berk 2009: 109). A recent study conducted by the Child and Family Research Institute and University of British Columbia surveyed almost 1500 pregnant women and found that fewer than 30% attended prenatal childbirth classes and a high number of them did not know the pros or cons or safety issues regarding epidurals, episiotomies, cesareans and other childbirth options (Roan 2011). In contrast, women in non-industrialized cultures have very different childbirth experiences. Women are more knowledgeable about the childbirth process and there is a larger support group for the woman during delivery (Berk 2009: 108). Additionally in many of these countries the majority of births are not in hospitals.
In comparison, in North America only 1% of mothers choose to have their babies at home and this percentage has increased since 2005 (Rubin 2010; Berk 2009: 108). These numbers are comparable with the majority of other developed nations (Rubin 2010). Additionally, more women are choosing to deliver in birthing centers rather than hospitals. At home births or in birthing clinics come with many pros and cons. This alternative form of birthing is more family focused and brings back the feeling of community in childbirth. Additionally, these births have fewer medical interventions than hospital births (ACOG 2011). However, there are risks involved as well. Even low risk births can turn into medical emergencies that lead to maternal or infant death. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a report that says although the absolute risk of home births is low it does carry a three-fold increase in the risk of newborn and mother death compared with hospital births. The College does not support planned home births and emphasizes the risks to mothers and newborns that decide to do so. Of course, other sources challenge both the statistic as well as the objectivity of the College, which does have a pecuniary interest in discouraging homebirth.
Most mothers deliver their babies in hospitals in developed countries, including the United States. While there is the advantage of medical equipment and personnel ready at any moment, there are other risks involved. For example the high rate of caesareans in the U.S. Currently 32% of births in the U.S. are via caesareans (Grady 2010). There are several reasons for this increase but the scariest factor is the doctors’ quickness to do a caesarean because they feared lawsuits. According to a survey conducted by the Obstetricians’ College reported that one third of doctors said they were performing more caesareans because they feared lawsuits and 8% of doctors said they quit delivering babies mostly because of liability issues (Grady 2010). The sad truth is maternal mortality has risen in the past few decades partly because of the dramatic increase of caesarean rates (Grady 2010).
After conducting all this research I came to this conclusion on how to decide where and how to have your baby: consider the mother’s health and risk factors, consider the baby’s health and risk factors, consult with a doctor or certified midwife and ultimately make an informed decision. Ultimately every woman has a choice in how she wants to deliver her baby—it is her right. However, she needs to make an informed decision and must take a more active part in her pregnancy and labor experience. I know that I will want to do what is best for my baby and me and I will make that decision with confidence. I am no longer ignorant of the pros and cons of childbirth options, and you can bet neither is Carly!
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2011. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Issues Opinion on Planned Home Births.http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr01-20-11.cfm (accessed July 1, 2011).
Berk, Laura E. 2009.Child Development: 8th Edition. USA: Pearson Higher Education.
Grady, Denise. 2010. Caesarean births are at a high in U.S. The New York Times,http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/24/health/24birth.html (accessed July 1, 2011).
O’Callaghan, Tiffany. 2010. Too many C-sections: Docs rethink induced labor. The New York Times.http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,2007754,00.html (accessed July 1, 2011).
Roan, Shari. 2011. Pregnant women show an amazing lack of knowledge about childbirth options, study shows. Las Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/print/2011/jun/14/news/la-heb-childbirth-20110614(accessed July 1, 2011).
Rubin, Rita. 2010. Slight increase in home births reverses 15-year decline. USA Todayhttp://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-03-04-homebirth04_ST_N.htm# (accessed July 1, 2011).