Going back a few months to the discussion on birth location, today’s New York Times had an interesting article that advocates for home births in Great Britain. In “British Regulator Urges Home Births Over Hospital for Uncomplicated Pregnancies,” it is described how Britain’s national health service has reversed a generation of guidance on childbirth to advising healthy women that it is safer to have babies at home or in a birthing center, rather than in a hospital. According to new guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, an executive body of the Department of Health in the UK, women with uncomplicated pregnancies were better off in the hands of midwives than hospital doctors during birth.
The article mentions a lot of the points we discussed in our debate over birth location, such as the higher risk of unnecessary cesarean sections and epidurals. However, the statement by such a highly regarded government health authority could have a large influence on the birth location decisions made by hundreds of thousands of British women each year. More importantly, it reflects a change in health perspectives by developed countries regarding hospital births and the medicalization of birth. According to the article, few developed countries have significant numbers of women opting for nonhospital deliveries: “In the United States, where a culture of litigation adds a layer of complication, only 1.36 percent of births took place outside a hospital in 2012. Two-thirds of those non-hospital births took place at home and 29 percent at free-standing birthing centers.”
With a country like Great Britain encouraging a return to midwives and home births and birthing centers for healthy pregnancies, it may be plausible to hope for such a change in the United States. While such a cultural change may take some time to take place, if more birthing centers were to open in the U.S., the option would be easier to consider for women looking for a nontraditional birth. I am curious to hear what others think – do you think in the near future we could see a shift in births from hospitals to birthing centers and home births in the U.S.?