A friend of mine who recently gave birth had planned on doing a homebirth. My reaction to this was as follows:
1. That's going to hurt
2. That's going to be messy
3. That's going to be fun for your neighbors
But other than that it seemed like a reasonable choice to me. I have at least one other friend who is a home birth advocate so I was familiar with all the reasons why someone would want to do it at home. Such as:
- Hospitals are for sick people and childbirth is not an illness
- 30%-40% of American births (depending on the state) result in medical intervention of some sort, much of which is probably not necessary. (The intervention rates in other developed countries are much lower)
- Concerns that the hospital and staff would not respect the parent's wishes regarding a natural childbirth experience
However, my friend did end up going to the hospital and had an emergency C-section as the baby was breech. It also turned out the cord was wrapped in an knot around his neck and also around his foot.
The thought of my friend attempting to deliver this baby at home and what could have happened to both her and the baby were very frightening to me. (Although my other home birth friend said that as soon as they figured out the baby was breech, they would have gone to the hospital and probably everything would have happened as it did anyway) Then I started thinking about all my friends who have given birth and how many of them had complications that required intervention. One of my friends had a severe hemorrhage after her second child and almost died. Another friend had to have an emergency C-section because the baby was too big for her to push out. My sister had a C-section due to concerns over the baby's health.
As the new Dad said to me, they had tried to have this child "off the grid" and I think that was the scary part to me. That no one knew they were there trying to do this. What if an emergency situation arose and the ambulance didn't get there in time? Illinois is a state particularly inhospitable to the idea of home birth and it is very difficult to make this choice in a safe and legal way here.
In the Netherlands, four out of every ten births happen at home. If you do have the baby in the hospital, you are attended by a midwife and an OB is only called in in case of emergency. After the baby is born, the midwife comes to your house several times to check on you and the baby. Many breech babies are delivered vaginally.
Some states have Birth Centers as an option. These are freestanding facilities where a child can be born under care in a non-hospital setting but there is prepared convenient transport available to a medical facility should it be necessary.
I think that after this experience, while I could still continue to support a friend who made the choice to do a homebirth, but it would be slightly less enthusiastic- at least in Illinois.
Ps: In case you were wondering about my own personal choices, I say the more intervention the better for me! i wish it was the 50's and they just knocked you out and brought you the baby when it was over.