The Majority of women in the US go to the hospital to have their babies. It became common from the 1920’s on when it was believed that births would be safer there. Sadly, that has not necessarily been proven to be the case. Evidence based birth practices have shown that restricting interventions and promoting natural birth actually improves outcomes. However, the majority of the research today shows that Hospitals do not practice evidence based medicine. As a result The United States has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality than any other developed country in the world. We also spend the most money, and are the most interventional.
Most women do not realize that birth does not have to be a horrible painful, interventional experience. They don’t realize that the interventions themselves can cause pain, and have serious risks for them and their babies. So what’s a mom to do?
When choosing a birth place it is important to make sure you are well educated about your options. Take a thorough childbirth class, and choose a care-provider who supports natural birth. (See Ten Questions to Ask (2015). Studies show that babies born to mothers who have no medications and interventions tend to fare better. Learning to stay healthy and low risk is important so that you don’t lose options because of serious health problems. Prevention is the key!
(Please see our article on “How to Stay Healthy & Low Risk” )
That said, a women should birth where she feels safest and most comfortable. It is her personal choice, and should be based not only on her comfort, but her health status. However, from a psychological point Dr. Michel Odent commented that in order to let her baby out she needs to also needs to feel so comfortable that she could make love with her partner in that environment. Hospitals definitely do not inspire intimacy.
So what is safest? Studies show that for a low risk Mom, a planned, midwife attended homebirth is just as safe, if not safer than hospital birth. So from the point of view of safety they are about equal. The biggest difference is that low-risk women who birth in hospitals receive excessive amounts of medically unnecessary interventions. However, hospitals are the safest choice for women who are high risk. (For more information on choosing a Homebirth click here)
The Cochrane Database conducted a review of available studies on home birth in 2012 and concluded that planned home birth in many places can be as safe as planned hospital birth and with less intervention and fewer complications. View a copy of the study here: http://almenpraksis.ku.dk/nyheder/oleolsen/Hjemmef_dsel.pdf/ Our Home birth page includes the most updated list of studies on the subject.
So can you have a normal, natural birth in a hospital setting? Yes, you can, but you will have to work hard for it. You need to choose the right care provider, take a thorough childbirth class, hire a Doula, as well as choose the right hospital. This combination cuts your chances of a cesarean in half, and the need for interventions & medications by 2/3rds. You can find details about NYS hospital statistics here, or in a spreadsheet here: 2013 Birth Stats for Rochester Area Hospitals
For an over view of national and International statistics checkout Mapping Maternity.