I try to look for silver linings during hard times. COVID-19 has been a hard time for everyone, here in America and around the world. But silver linings exist, including America’s home birth rates.
My 10-year-old got a letter from a friend yesterday.
“I’m sick and tired of this virus,” her classmate wrote.
I think most of us are sick and tired of coronavirus. But as difficult as this ongoing economic, political, and medical COVID-19 crisis has been, several interesting and positive things have happened during lockdown.
Puzzles: People have been buying more jigsaw puzzles (which, for some reason, fills me with delight).
Books: Several sectors of the book industry are thriving (as an author, of course I’m thrilled that people are reading more). I spoke with a senior acquisitions editor at an independent employee-owned publishing company who told me they had the best month in the 35-year history of the company. Health books and books that focus on DIY are flying off the (virtual) shelves.
Sex: With all this staying home people have more time to be intimate. Despite falling birth rates in America, experts predict we’ll have a boom generation of “quaranteens” in approximately 13 years and 7-9 months from now.
But the best news of all is that America’s home birth rates are rising.
Women and babies benefit when home birth rates rise
The deaths from coronavirus are devastating. The reaction to this novel infection has also hurt so many people—causing a rise in suicides, depression, loneliness, domestic violence, and terrible financial hardships. But the fact that America’s home birth rates are rising is a cause for celebration.
The most scientific birth is the least technological, as Alice Dreger, Ph.D., has famously argued in an article in The Atlantic. In fact, dozens of studies show that home birth is as safe or safer than hospital birth.
Making home birth accessible to more women helps improve America’s health. Indeed, there are many reasons to choose a home birth or birth center birth:
1. Superior quality of care
The quality of care offered by trusted midwives and home birth doctors is much higher than the quality of care offered by nurses you’ve never met before and doctors who may or may not even come into the room while you are laboring in the hospital.
2. Less likelihood of unwanted and unneeded medical interventions
When you have a home birth with experienced midwives you reduce your risk of having an unnecessary C-section, a vacuum extraction, forceps, episiotomy, and other damaging interventions. Continuous labor support, whether at home or in the hospital, is essential for best outcomes.
3. No after-birth rush
Midwives understand that birth is an emergence not an emergency. The safest and most empowering births are not on an arbitrary schedule. Most midwives also take care not to rush to cut the cord. They understand there is no valid medical reason to give an infant a hepatitis B vaccine, and that there should be zero separation between mom and baby after birth.
One of the main reasons that more American moms are choosing out-of-hospital birth right now is because many hospitals are forbidding laboring women to have a support team with them. Some hospitals won’t even allow a partner or best friend in the room. These measures that some hospitals have implemented to “protect” birthing moms make the birth experience more dangerous and much scarier.
Home birth rates rising means safer, more empowered birth
We know that women need to feel safe in order to give birth safely. Birthing mamas do much better with constant companionship. As this large-scale scientific review found, continuous labor support leads to more vaginal birth, less use of drugs during labor, fewer C-sections, shorter labors, more birth satisfaction, and higher health scores for newborns. But hospitals are now leaving women to labor for hours completely alone. These anti-mom and anti-baby measures are unfortunate. But the unintended consequence is that America’s home birth rates are rising. There’s no place like home. Especially when you’re having a baby.
Both past and present leaders would agree. After all, the British royal family has a long history of home birth. The princess of Norway, Märtha Louise, is a home birth mom. Jimmy Carter was the first American president who was not born at home. And Pope Francis publicly applauded the designation of 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife,” saying that “midwives carry out perhaps the noblest of the professions.”
Pope Francis praises midwives
Pope Francis has often mentioned his esteem for healthcare professionals, especially nurses, one of whom he credits with saving his life. In 2018, the Holy Father departed from a prepared text to praise an Italian Dominican sister who cared for him in Argentina when he was very sick and the doctors were giving up on him. The pope described Sister Cornelia Caraglio as “a great woman, brave too, to the point of arguing with the doctors. Humble, but sure of what she was doing.”
“Do not forget the medicine of the caress,” said Pope Francis, to the applause of everyone present. “Tenderness goes from heart to hands,” he said, and makes it possible to “touch wounds with respect and love.”
Home birth is raw and real and tender. That America’s home birth rates are rising gives me hope for the future.
Readers, what do you think? Were you born at home or in the hospital? Did you give birth at home or in the hospital? Please share your thoughts about birth and your experiences in the comment section below.
Women Giving Birth Without Midwives
Everyone I Know Had a C-section. So What?
A Doctor’s Thoughts on Home Birth
Published: May 24, 2020
Last update: October 17, 2022
I birthed 2 of my five babies at home (in 2001 and 2003). Those were by far my favorite births and I am hoping that my children (now adults and almost adults) will also choose homebirth when the time comes.
Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D. says
I birthed 3 of my 4 babies at home, Rachel. The last 2 births were by far my favorites. I have 2 young adult children and 2 still at home. It will be interesting to see what kind of birthing choices they make. But they’re also so concerned about the environment that they aren’t sure if they will have children. Thanks for weighing in!
Stephanie H. says
I began researching and planning for a home birth last summer before becoming pregnant for the second time in the fall, so I began working with our home birth midwife early in my pregnancy. Now that we have the current situation we do, I’m so, so thankful I was led to seek out having a home birth. T-minus 4 weeks!
Laurie Lentz-Marino says
Just heard disturbing spews from B. (not an MD) Gates -wants to test all newborns for corona – and separate!!!!!!!! “+” from mom’s – (RT PCR can’t confirm any such sort of thing ever!.)
The heck? who died, left him God? What is wrong(s) with this-too much money- misogynist?. Didn’t get any love from his mother?
Take all those 100’s of billions and feed, educate, starving children.
Veronica Herrera says
I’ve had an “emergency c/s”, VBAC, 2 RCS where I delivered 2 sets of twins via surrogacy and in 2019 I had my first all natural birth. I’m due this November with our 4th child and over the moon that we’re having our baby in the comfort of our own home.
Dave P says
My Wife gave birth to all 4 of our children at home. We made the switch to home birth when our first born was only 1 month away. I’ll spare you the long story of why we switched but in a nut shell it was a gut feeling my wife had coupled with a doctor who rolled her eyes and started backing up toward the exit every time Bridgette would ask a question about having a natural birth. At our last visit Bridgette pulled out a list of questions for the doctor and she literally walked out after the first or second question. We left that visit and drove straight to Home First, a practice that did home births with 4 doctors. We popped into the office without an appointment and who is now our favorite doctor who we never met before spent an hour with us discussing home birth even though he had other people waiting. We left Home First and called our previous doctors office and said your fired! Everyone thought we were CRAZY! Well as it turns out I think that anyone who doesn’t plan on a home birth is crazy. Four healthy kids all born at home and we could not be stronger advocates for home births. Virus or no virus, it’s doesn’t matter. Home births are the way to go.