Is Place of Birthing a Choice?


One thing I have decided after working with women during and after pregnancy is this: babies come when they want, and how they want to arrive. A mother's best laid birth plans will hopefully have enough flexibility to allow her to feel successful even if, and especially if, her plans have to change. A fundamental question that has been asked, from the standpoint of a mother's beliefs is, do women really feel they have a choice to deliver at home versus in a hospital?

Researchers in the UK asked this question of a diverse sample of 41 women who were interviewed. Despite the fact that in the UK, a woman can birth at home with a midwife (and this is covered by the National Health System) home births are unusual, accounting for only 3% of all births. And while it may seem exciting to read that in the US, the number of home births has risen by more than 50% over a decade, the actual numbers include that less than 2% of births occur at home according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data.

Back to the concept of choice, when women were interviewed about where they planned to give birth, perceptions rather than fact ruled the day. The concept of which environments were "safe" versus "risky" were a common theme, with women having differing explanations of why a hospital might be more safe than the home environment, or vice versa. The authors describe the issue that, when healthy mothers with low-risk pregnancies give birth in hospital environments, medical interventions including surgical birth are more likely to place. Women who would choose a home birth reported beliefs such as not being able to have a 'natural' birth in a hospital, fear of contracting illness or disease, or of wanting to be at home surrounded by loves ones. Women also reported that at home, more control over the environment and increased ability to relax would be available.

On the other hand, women who wanted to give birth within a hospital associated the medical environment with safety and reassurance, and expressed fear of feeling guilty if events did not turn out well with a home birth. Unfortunately, some women reported feeling "unfit" to give birth and chose the hospital as a place where both mother and the baby would be more safe. This, I believe, is a very sad statement about the disempowerment that women feel in relation to their own ability to feel healthy and strong in their own body, and to trust that the birth experience can progress well in a multitude of environments. Women interviewed in the study cited marketing and propaganda as contributing to a sense of not being healthy or fit enough to manage the birth outside of a hospital.

The authors point out that "…beliefs and assumptions about birth risk are deeply ingrained…" and that fear of the risks of birthing at home, well-founded or not, remain prevalent. So what is our role? Perhaps to share that healthy women who have uncomplicated pregnancies have choices, and that we believe in their ability to make positive, strong choices that their bodies are fit to perform. There are many birthing centers that are designed with home comforts, and that offer a "middle ground" between a hospital center and a home environment. Home births can be attended by well-trained midwives or other practitioners who are experienced in knowing when and how to access more interventional approaches if needed. This post is not about whether a woman should give birth at home or in a hospital- that issue is hotly debated by many forums currently and by experts in the topic. What we as pelvic rehabilitation providers can continue to offer is coaching, encouragement, and education that is empowering to a woman, so that when she makes a decision (in conjunction with her chosen providers) about how she would like the birth of her child to be achieved, she feels "fit" to birth in the environment she chooses.

If you agree that we have a role in providing a platform from which we educate and empower women to trust their bodies and their choices about birthing, then you will L.O.V.E taking a course with Ginger Garner, a very empowered (and empowering) woman who is a relentless advocate of these issues. In New York, in November, you can take Ginger's continuing education course Yoga as Medicine for Pregnancy. Watch for future Yoga as Medicine courses from Ginger to be updated on our schedule in the coming weeks. Can't make a live course right now? Check out Ginger's online courses with Medbridge, and take advantage of the Herman Wallace discount on our website!

Can Mindfulness Help Struggling Middle Schoolers?
Stress & Bowel Dysfunction

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to

All Upcoming Continuing Education Courses