On home births

A woman giving birth on a birth chair, from a ...
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Home births has been getting more attention in the last little while in the English-speaking world, as the idea of purer and less interventionist births seem to coincide with the naturalist trend.

But are home births actually better and safer?  Some claim the rate of post-natal depression is lower in women that do give births at home, others see the practice as primitive and risky.

In the Netherlands, as many as a quarter of births take place in the home – which seems high, but still much lower than what it was 30 years ago. The midwifery role is well-integrated into the health-care system – who replaces doctors in their roles of monitoring pregnancies, birthing, and post-natal care.

The affinity for expectant mothers to turn to midwives instead of doctors has perhaps more historical and cultural bearings than what’s been given credit to.  The Dutch shuns painkillers and sees medication as the last resort, perhaps owning to its somewhat agrarian past where healthcare is not concentrated and widespread, and its Calvinist staunchness.

The government and the medical profession likes to keep the population think their stoic approach against pain and illness, is more sensible against what they view as the cry-baby paranoia of the Americans.  In fact, when a relatively famous Dutch TV host gave birth with the help of epidurals and later praised it as “invention of the century” (blasphemy!), she was quickly condemned by both the health ministries and physician associations for giving women the wrong idea.

As a result, it still remains that in the 21st century and a somewhat post-feminist world, when the majority of developed-world’s women have made peace with the role pain-relief plays during the birthing process, the average Dutch woman is still guilt-tripped into viewing a drug-free birth as the ultimate testament to their womanhood.

Visits to the doctors usually end with the patients empty-handed, with doctors doing little except telling patients to wait-and-see, and let-it-blow-over.  The entire healthcare profession also has little penchant for preventative care, which is to say, yearly check ups (no pap smears before the age of 40, and only every 2-5 years thereafter) and preventative dental care is almost unheard of.

But back to home births, is it better and just as safe as hospital births?  This report doesn’t seem to think so.  Although it’ll probably take another generation before the Dutch assertion that “home birth is the best option for a large number of women” goes challenged.

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