Britain’s national health service recommends home birth

I came across an article in The New York Times yesterday about Britain’s national health service encouraging women with low-risk pregnancies to have their birth experiences at home-that it was actually safer to do so than in a hospital or birthing center!  This echoes our discussion earlier this semester about the politics around birth location and the small, but active movement of home births in nations that are so accustomed to traditional hospital births.  This article claims that “giving birth in a traditional maternity ward increase(s) the chances of surgical intervention and therefore infection.”  Although we have already discussed the benefits and risks of having a home birth, the article is notable because it is comes from a national source and not a minority voice.  This could have tremendous impact on the way women in Britain think about their deliveries, where normally 9/10 women give births in hospitals.  Still, there are opponents to the recommendations, citing a trend that could be misinterpreted by women who are not low-risk.

What are your thoughts about this?  Do you think it’s ethical of an announcement as influential as the national health service (albeit of Britain, not the U.S.) to be broadcasted?  How do we establish a balance between preventing unnecessary hospital interventions and having as safe a birth as possible at home?


2 thoughts on “Britain’s national health service recommends home birth

  1. I think one of the key issues that were addressed about home births in class were access to resources in times of complications. Although studies may show that the relaxed environment of being at home may decrease a mother’s chances of having obstetric complications, sometimes these complications may occur regardless. Making sure that resources are readily available to help with these complications is essential for ensuring the well-being of the mother and child.

    Before an individual is about to give birth, I am sure that they would want that extra security of knowing that resources are readily available just in case anything unpredicted were to happen. Even though chances are slim that complications would occur, knowing that these resources are within the vicinity of where the birth takes place could decrease stress levels of the mother.

  2. You know, there’s a saying about this; “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” (Disraeli). Just as with any advertisement, the information is selective; statistically, of course, there are likely to be higher infection rates at hospitals, but framing it as though that it the primary risk in birth is deceptive. They are more frequent than other complications. Then again, when you decide to refer to them all as “complications,” you even the field and equate infection and cord prolapse as though they share similar severity, which is simply untrue.

    Increasing home birth is not a bad thing; as long as it’s an uncomplicated pregnancy and they have a good midwife and contingency plan, go for it. However, I think the mother should be better educated on what is being given up; therefore, maybe this should be advertised to doctors to discuss with their patients. After all, a practitioner would better be able to ascertain who is low risk, advise on both options, and maybe even know where to find a good midwife.

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