After the homebirth death

The message boards at contain one of the largest repositories of homebirth death stories that can be found anywhere. It’s rather ironic that Mothering continues to promote homebirth as completely safe when they have more evidence than most that it leads to unnecessary deaths.

Consider the following stories gathered over the past few months:

I want to start by telling you that homebirth is a wonderful thing and I think it can be done by first time moms with breech babies. I also want you to know that I am NOT trying to scare you. But – I am a first time mom, with fantastic, educated midwives and I had my first baby at home in June. He was breech, which we were pretty sure about beforehand, his head got trapped, he suffered a lack of oxygen and was declared brain dead. He lived 4 days on a ventilator in the NICU.

I know this is completely terrifying. I also know that statistically we should have been fine. I have researched this TO. DEATH. and the three big risk factors for vaginal breech birth are 1) preemie – my son was 40w5d; 2) large babies – my son was 6lb 12oz; and 3) first time moms with “unproven” pelvis. We cannot point to any one definitive thing that led to this issue. [My son’s] head was actually pretty small and my pelvis is just fine. I know that we did the best we could for our son, and that there are no guarantees in a hospital either. The risks of epidural and c-section are about equal to a vaginal birth. I just want you to know that it can be done, but it can also end in tragedy. I know that hospital births sometimes end in tragedy too so I refuse to allow myself to think about what would have happened to me or [my son} in a hospital.

I find it particularly sad that this woman who supposedly research the topic “to death” did not know that C-section is safer than vaginal breech delivery.

At the following homebirth, the baby was born with a serious undiagnosed congenital anomaly. It is not clear if the baby would have survived the necessary surgical repair, but the baby was certainly doomed by being born at home:

My peaceful homebirth turned into a full-out trauma complete with dozens of officers coming in to take pictures of the “crime scene” before I could even get covered or stitched or anything. They kept telling me that there will be nothing doctors can do- he was born wrong and you caused this- it was absolutely my worst nightmare come true. I kept passing out on my way out of the house and there were officers and firemen just standing there watching me- not offering to help at all. It was absolutely horrendous.

Now, I still support homebirth and know that it was not the cause of my son’s death- my midwife is very competent and did what she could- his condition was undiagnosed or else we would have delivered at a hospital. However, I suspect that many people (this being their first/only experience with home birth) think that the home birth is the cause, or at least contributed to, his death. My DH is still passing over the born at home part when he tells the story and I feel like it all has to be some dirty little secret or something. My relatives were whispering about it at the graveside service.

I guess I just wish in a way that I hadn’t had a home birth- because losing my son is hard enough without dealing with these aspects of the trauma… I will never have the home birth experience I was hoping for. I guess I’m mourning that loss as well as the loss of all the experiences I expected to have with my son.

Another mother replied with the story of her loss:

… I too had fire and police arrive and turn what was also a beautiful HB (until that nightmarish moment when my son was born dead) into a seriously traumatic event. They treated it like a crime scene, wanting to take the placenta and videotape as evidence … [A]fter a battery of tests, placenta pathology and a full autopsy they found no proof of an abruption and nothing wrong with my son which several doctors have come to the only conclusion, that is was a cord-compression.

I too felt my midwives were very capable and I have been told babies die in hospitals too. I don’t want to add insult to injury here but babies die in hospitals for different reasons… most stillbirth occurs [before] arriving at the hospital … whereas intrapartum loss is rare at hospitals. I feel if I had been on consistent monitoring they would have been able to track the HR decels better and probably done a c-section (my worst fear) but he would have LIVED (most probably)!

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel the pain of being guilty for killing my son. I have been told over and over again it was not my fault which I have come to accept [as] different than the HB being at fault …

The decision to HB is not something someone enters into lightly, it is usually well researched and considered and a decision made out of a deep intense love for what we believe to be best for our babies … and I unlike you was very vocal about our decision to HB for this proudful reason shooting my mouth off like we were better than all my friends who I thought were radical but chickened out and have to have their epidurals, etc. and now I feel like I am eating crow, BIG TIME! …

The mother of the baby who died of a congenital anomaly sums it up most poignantly:

It is so hard. We both chose homebirth because we believed in making the best choice for our babies – and we thought this was it. To have that belief snatched from us, along with our babies, is so very, very hard.