The classic National Birth Center Study, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, followed the course of 11, 814 women and their infants admitted to 84 freestanding birth centers in the United States. The conclusion of this very large and careful study was: “ birth centers offer a safe and acceptable alternative to hospital confinement for selected pregnant women…and such care leads to relatively few cesarean sections.”
Our national c-section rate continues to rise, along with our maternal and infant mortality rate. In 2006 the US ranked 33rd in infant mortatlity behind Cuba and just ahead of Croatia. The latest statistics being compiled suggest our 2009 rank will be about 45th. At the same time, our c-section rate has gone from 5.5% in 1970, to 32.3% in 2008. AND the US spends more money per birth than any other country in the world.
Women who undergo cesarean sections are 3 times more likely to die than women who give birth vaginally because of problems due to blood clots, infection, and anesthesia complications. Babies born by c-section have a documented higher risk of respiratory distress and iatrogenic (medically caused) prematurity.
Clearly we are in a crisis situation. The only way forward is to go back to how birth was meant to be, to natural birth. Hands down, the safest way to have a baby is the way nature intended. Our love of hospitals, technology, intervention, and surgery has not improved outcome for mothers and babies. It has seriously erroded it.
The World Health Organization states that birth is most likely to proceed naturally when pregnant women are taken care of by midwives throughout pregnancy. Natural birth has become almost non-existent in our country. Natural birth is much more than not having surgery.
A natural birth happens when a woman births on her own power, in her own way, and in her own time. Her labor starts naturally, without pitocin, or any other pharmaceuticals, or artificial rupturing of membranes. She has a care provider who has extensive training and experience in facilitating natural birth. She has a care provider that trusts birth and trusts women’ s bodies, and who know how to respectfully and non-intrusively observe her labor. She does not have any pharmaceuticals, including pitocin, coursing through her blood and interfering with the complex cocktail of hormones that are normally released in labor and birth. She is not hooked up to monitors or IV’ s that hinder her freedom of movement. She can get into whatever position she wants to be in. She can follow her instincts. She is loved and supported in how she wants to birth. She can be quiet, pray, talk, sing, or shout. She can eat, she can drink, she can move around. She can move through the entire birth in a way that acknowledges the sanctity of this rite of passage, and she will forever be empowered and awestruck by the strength and beauty of its memory. She can be in an environment that’s comfortable to her, where she feels safe and private, surrounded by people she knows and trusts. More and more women are finding that environment in their own homes, or in a free- standing birth center.
Birth center births typically cost 1/3 of hospital birth. Most insurance companies already cover birth center fees, and the new Health Care Reform Bill will require that birth center fees be covered through medicaid. Home and birth center births have been proven safe and cost-effective. They also lower the risk of having a c-section and increase the rate of natural birth.
Risk screening for birth center birth is the same as risk screening for home birth. It is estimated that 70-80% of pregnant women are low risk and can safely birth out of hospital. Some of the countries with the lowest infant and maternal mortality rates, like the Netherlands, have a large percentage of out-of-hosptial births managed by midwives.
If you are a normal healthy pregnant woman, you can have a home birth, a birth center birth, or a hospital birth. It’ s your choice! Please make an educated choice to have a natural birth in one of those places. That is safest for you and your baby!