Why You Should Have Your Baby At Home, Not At A Hospital

October 26, 2011  |  

After hearing and reading so much about the birthing industry, I have come really question why women continue to elect to have children in a hospital setting? Giving birth is a natural act, not a medical condition.  And in my opinion, the only reason why a woman should ever give birth in the hospital is if she is experiencing high-risk complications, which might put her or the baby in danger.

Healthy expecting women, particularly women of color, should stop giving birth in hospitals and opt for home-births.

Did you know that the reason why women are forced to lay on their backs during labor, particularly when it seems more perfectly natural and less physically stressful for them to squat, is because it’s easier for the doctors?  Never mind the well-being of the mothers but just as long as the doctor is comfortable, right?  Also, did you know that the national U.S. cesarean section rate was 4.5% in 1965 but as of 2007 that rate was at 31.8%, which translates into one in three mothers giving birth by cesarean section?

Because of the rising cost associated with the birthing industry, including the high medical malpractice premiums in this specialty and a rising dependence on Medicaid reimbursement, many hospitals across the country are closing their maternity care units. In my neck of the woods, Philadelphia and surrounding counties has seen 18 hospitals shut down their maternity care units.  Because of it, more expecting moms are actively seeking out midwives, doulas and birthing centers as an alternative to the often crowded, cattle-driving-like atmosphere of the maternity ward units.

This shift to seek out more naturalized births options in the black and brown communities has been increasing but not at the rate of our white counterparts. The reason is two fold: first, there is the cost aspect of home births.  The average birth-center fee is only $1,600, which might as well be a million dollars for some expecting moms. In particularly, for low-income expecting mothers, the idea of a more natural home birth may seem desirable however with their reliance on Medicaid and other government-sponsored insurance programs, they are unfortunately still firmly planted in the hospital maternity system. Current restrictions to Medicaid and other government sponsored insurance programs do not cover home births.

The second, and probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome is the stigmatization of what a homebirth really is.  Prior to the medicalization, thus the industrialization, of birthing, it was common for women of color to give birth outside of hospitals due to things like cost and racial discrimination, which would prohibit women of color from entering hospitals all together.  Because of it, the idea of giving birth at home signifies for many something that poor people in Third World countries do because of the lack of options.   And the last thing that any aspirational Black person wants to do is associate themselves with poor people.

Yet a recent study by Amnesty International suggest that women in the USA have a greater lifetime risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than women in 40 other countries. For example, the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the USA is five- times greater than in Greece, four times greater than in Germany, and three times greater than in Spain. More than two women die every day in the USA from pregnancy-related causes. Likewise, African-American women are at especially high risk; they are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. In short, our modernized, First World health care system is actually failing women and their children.

Moreover, midwives and doulas have been, from the beginning of time, part of the original model of OB/GYN care and have a solid history of providing maternity services to the poor and the wealthy alike. And with more birthing centers opening around the country, with certified professional midwives as staff, more and more Medicaid and government insurance programs are beginning to cover non-traditional birthing options for women.  Which is why I was so excited to learn that Aja Graydon from Kindred and the Family Soul opted for a homebirth for one of the clan’s six kids and that Erykah Badu recently announced that she is training to become a doula. While it probably wasn’t their intention, Graydon and Badu are helping to make natural, home births en vogue again. And that is a good thing.


Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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