So many homebirth deaths I can barely keep track


Homebirth dramatically increases the risk of a baby’s death and appears to increase the risk of a mother’s death.

When I first started blogging about homebirth deaths back in 2006, homebirth was such a rare and remarkable occurrence that I could keep track of most homebirth deaths. I wrote a post about nearly every death that I heard about.

As homebirth has become more popular, the deaths have been coming fast and furious and I can no longer keep up. If I wrote a post for every death I heard about, the blog were be dominated by deaths and the posts would have a depressing sameness: baby drops nearly dead into clueless midwife’s hands, uterus ruptures at home, massive maternal post partum hemorrhage. “Trusting birth” hasn’t lowered the incidence of these lifethreatening emergencies. “Trusting birth” has simply increased the death rate because they happen far from lifesaving experts and equipment.

“Trusting birth” to prevent a homebirth death is as effective as “trusting pregnancy” is at preventing miscarriages. “Trusting” doesn’t do a damn thing to prevent anything.

In the last few weeks I have learned about:

A baby who died at homebirth in Florida 12 weeks ago, unexpectedly born dead.

A baby who died in Texas 6 weeks ago, unexpectedly born pulseless.

A baby who died in Phoenix last week whose mother, a doula, had a previous HBAC. I have not been able to establish whether the caregiver knew that the baby was dead before birth or was not expecting it.

A baby who died in October after his mother labored at The Farm and was transferred to the hospital for failure to progress. On arrival at the hospital, fetal distress was noted and the mother had an emergency C-section. It was too late. The baby could not be resuscitated.

A mother who died in December in Texas after postpartum transfer from homebirth. The baby was born lifeless but surived after cooling therapy to mitigate brain damage from lack of oxygen at birth. The mother died despite days of heroic efforts to save her life at the hospital.

These are the deaths I could personally confirm. I have been told of others.

Five mothers who trusted birth: 4 dead babies and one dead mother.

Thinking about homebirth? This could be YOU or YOUR BABY. These women were no different from you. Their midwives were no different from yours. Your trust in birth can’t protect you just like it didn’t protect them.

Why do homebirth midwives counsel women to trust birth? It’s marketing ploy to elide the fact that you can’t trust homebirth midwives to save your baby’s life or your life; all you can do it trust (i.e. pretend) that your birth won’t develop life threatening complications. If you pretend wrong, your baby dies or you die, or both.

I have come to realize that it is going to take the death of a celebrity’s baby or her own death to wake people up to the deaths that are occurring all the time at homebirth. That will be the tipping point, in the same way the the Disneyland measles outbreak became the tipping point that definitively discredited the anti-vaccination movement. There had been outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases before; there had been deadlier outbreaks (pertussis); but for some reason, the Disneyland outbreak gripped the public consciousness. It will take something like that for homebirth deaths to grip the public consciousness.

There is a steady stream of preventable homebirth deaths. They happen in every state, with every type of midwife. Most people, including most homebirth advocates aren’t paying any attention, partly because homebirth midwives are lying about the deaths, hiding them, refusing to discipline the midwives involved and publishing deliberately misleading papers that slice and dice the data to obscure hideous death rates.

I BEG any woman contemplating homebirth to consider:

Trusting birth is like trusting the gun at Russian roulette. Sure the odds are high that when you fire the gun, there won’t be a bullet in the chamber and you will survive, but no amount of trusting the gun changes the fact that there is a bullet in one of the chambers and it’s just simple probability whether that bullet will wind up in your head. Similarly, the odds are high that when you have a homebirth, you won’t have a life threatening complication and you and your baby will survive. But no amount of trusting birth changes the fact that life threatening complications will happen and it’s just simple probability whether they will happen to you.

Please, please, please give birth in a hospital. You might not like the experience; the chance of ending up with interventions is high; the chance of ending up with a C-section may even be higher than it should be. But the chance of ending up DEAD (you or your baby) is very, very low.

I am so weary of writing about dead babies who didn’t have to die, reading soul crushing stories of mothers who risked their babies and lost, and contemplating the anguish of small children growing up motherless.

Thinking about homebirth? Think about the fact that what happened to these women could happen to you … and trusting birth won’t do a damn thing to stop it.