UK trying to push women into homebirths that they don’t want


For many years, UK midwives and natural childbirth advocates insisted that a significant portion of women would choose homebirth if it were available to them. That hasn’t turned out to be the case. Despite increased promotion of and access to homebirth, despite research tailor made to promote the “safety” of homebirth, the UK homebirth rate has not increased very much at all.

But UK homebirth advocates haven’t given up. Their latest effort to force women into homebirths that they don’t want comes courtesy of NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, who have decreed that pregnant women must be informed of interventions rates in all hospitals.

[pullquote align=”right” color=””]The promotion of homebirth rests on the belief that women’s agonizing pain in labor can be ignored.[/pullquote]

An article in The Daily Mail lays out the “problem”:

Statistically, home births or those in a small midwife-led unit are just as safe as hospital deliveries for women at low-risk of complications.

But most still choose to go to hospital, where doctors are immediately on-hand in case anything suddenly goes wrong.

Imagine that! Women want to give birth at the place best equipped to handle life threatening emergencies. We must discourage them from putting safety first!

The purported “solution”?

Guidance from NICE states that GPs or midwives should provide expectant mothers with information about the safety and risks of complication ‘specific to their local or neighbouring area’.

The information would state how many needed interventions such as forceps or caesareans, or suddenly needed to be transferred to hospital – if at home or in a midwife-led centre.

This may also include the numbers of stillbirths and women who died in labour – although these are likely to be very low.

Furthermore, these figures may not be accurately recorded as women who suddenly suffer a serious complication would be transferred.

The reason, of course, is to save money, though NICE denies it:

The watchdog insisted it wasn’t a cost cutting measure even though home births are far cheaper.

Figures show that a hospital delivery costs about £1,631, falling to £1,450 for a midwife centre and £1,066 for a home birth.

But hospitals are only cheaper when you don’t factor in pediatric costs for babies who are injured or die and when you ignore the fact that homebirth requires far higher levels of midwifery staffing than hospitals or birth centers do.

The real problem, though, is that the guidance is based on two very ugly premises. The first ugly premise is that birth without interventions is a worthy goal. It’s not; birth without DEATH OR INJURY should ALWAYS be the primary goal and the number of intervention is irrelevant. So called “normal birth” is a self-serving goal of midwives and they are trying to ram it down the throats of pregnant women. There is NO virtue to avoiding interventions merely to be able to say that you avoided interventions.

The second premise is even uglier and deeply misogynistic. The promotion of homebirth rests on the belief that women’s agonizing pain in labor can be ignored. I don’t notice anyone promoting home vasectomies or home transurethral prostatectomies even though the pain from those procedures is arguably less. What’s the difference? Men’s pain is always considered worthy of treatment whereas women are left to suffer, encouraged to suffer, and supposedly “improved” by suffering.

Effective pain relief is a human right, not just for men, but for women, too! The belief that women ought to endure pain or, worse, are improved by pain, is profoundly, irredeemably sexist in the extreme.

Homebirth is being forced on women because the government thinks it can save money and because the extremely powerful midwives union, the Royal College of Midwives, is more interested in promoting their autonomy and employment than promoting the comfort of women and the safety of babies.

And that is arguably the ugliest fact of all.