The homebirth controversy: Informed consent and a child’s right

Informa Insights

According to Homebirth Australia, the latest Australian data shows homebirth rates have increased by 56% in one year; there were 863 homebirths in 2009 and 1345 in 2010. Following this, there have been inquests around the country looking at homebirth deaths in recent years. We had the opportunity to hear from Ann Catchlove* on informed consent, a child’s right and the rate of deaths and injuries as a result of homebirth prior to her presentation at the upcoming Obstetric Malpractice Conference in June.

What are the major changes that you’ve observed during your time working in the homebirth area?
Ann: I have been involved as a consumer representative in maternity services since 2009. The big change that has taken place in that period in relation to homebirth has been the introduction of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme with its requirements for registered health professionals to hold professional indemnity…

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A must-read for families considering home birth

Safer Midwifery in Utah

A co-owner of a birth center who let her license lapse has written a chillingly honest account of out-of-hospital birthing and CPM (certified professional midwife) attended births.

Here are some choice quotes that families may want to see before choosing these lay people to attend their birth:

I am certainly guilty of allowing my memory to lead me down a primrose path. My memory lingers over moments when I was heroic, times when I saved the day, and events that make me seem, in my own mind, like a smart and responsible caregiver. I have to force myself to see things differently, and it is uncomfortable. That time when I expertly resuscitated that breathless baby? I didn’t know he was in distress until he was born; I had missed any warning signs of that. The time I successfully helped a mom avoid the hospital when her blood pressure was…

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Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

There is no way for natural child birth advocates to accept criticism. There are two main ways that NCB advocates dodge criticism, and it is by formulating lazy ad hominems based on the critic’s history with NCB.

When a critic was hurt by NCB

Wow, I read your story and I am *so sorry* that you had such a *terrible, horrible* experience. I hope some day you can heal from what happened and move on with your life. I sense that your anger and trauma has made you lash out against midwives and home birth, but that isn’t fair to those of us who experienced them as a sacred, positive experience. I am praying for you to find peace.

When a critic was NOT hurt by NCB

I don’t know why you are so angry, these women and their choices have literally NOTHING to do with you and I wonder what kind of mental health problems you must have to obsess about what other people choose to do during their births. I could listen to you if you had actually attended home births or had one yourself, but you just really don’t know what you are talking about!

There is no way to win. Its the mark of a group of people who are uninterested in actually learning anything, only reinforcing what they already believe.

midwives vs reality

I got a comment today from the author of a Babymed piece about the petition for safer homebirth. She wrote about it too, and I went to check out the article. The petition is for very basic precautions, namely licensing and insurance for home birth midwives, something I am advocating for in my state. How could anyone object? Well, like this…

choice limited

Ingrid Anderson commented

“It’s really difficult to tell who exactly the “Coalition for Safer Homebirth” is. Smart marketing for a petition that at its core is anti-homebirth and entrenches confusion and obstacles to caring for women and babies well and safely at home.

Calling for the eradication of midwives is ugly political history repeating itself (this time led by privileged white women?)….

A privileged white CNM in a state that, thankfully, recognizes the tremendous contribution of CPMs!”

Ingrid thinks that requiring licensure and insurance “entrenches confusion and obstacles to caring for women and babies well and safely at home”. How? Being licensed as a CPM is a joke, all you need are 40 births and to pass a single exam, but midwives still oppose those very basic measures.

Next she says the petition calls for the eradication of midwives, and claims that the proof of that is in that “privileged white women” are calling for it. The petition absolutely does not call for the eradication of midwives. The even more stringent laws that physicians and nurses must obey have not eradicated the profession of medicine, and has actually improved it significantly since the days of unlicensed, rogue medicine.

What is funny to me about this is the fact that home birth midwives serve predominantly privileged white women, like Ricki Lake. Your race, sex, and income level are only relevant if you oppose home birth, it seems! In reality the coalition is mostly home birth loss parents, so they are likely to be white and upper class just like most women that home birth. It would be downright strange for the demographic of those harmed by the profession deviated wildly from the demographic of the population they serve.

The other thing that the midwife ignores is the reverence for white males in the natural child birth movement. Grantly dick reed wrote Birth Without Fear, and was an outspoken white supremacist. Marsden Wagner is another dead white patriarch who is worshipped in home birth circles despite being a pediatrician instead of an obstetrician or a neonatologist.  Michael Odent is revered, despite spouting damaging lies about the mode of birth ruining the bond between mother and child (I suppose people find his accent charming?). Someone is probably thinking “WHAT ABOUT INA MAY GASKIN???!!!” right now, and the truth is that she was in a patriarchal sex cult when she learned midwifery. Her husband, stephen gaskin, is the one who decided unmedicated birth on their compound was the law of the land. He also decided having sex with anyone you felt like was the law of the land, and hence so many pregnancies. Ina May just did her wifely duty in delivering the babies and trying to spread her beliefs to other people. The natural child birth ideology that started in soviet russia was borne out of necessity- they didn’t have enough pain relief to go around, and they couldn’t say anything bad about the government failing to provide, so the lie that unmedicated birth was superior was born to keep women in line. That’s an uglier history than the migration to hospital birth.

I also need to address the exploitation of women of color in developing nations by natural child birth workers like CPMs and some doulas. Anyone who is trying to be a CPM knows its damn hard to find someone to study under to get your 40 births, and so some have resorted to going to different nations to help poor people give birth. They can’t offer much real help because they lack equipment and knowledge, but instead of say fundraising to help bring actual obstetric help to developing nations and then studying there, they simply send worthless helpers who fly back home and start delivering babies as “professional” midwives. They are delivering anyones baby without the hope of hospital transfer, normalizing dangerous situations for the midwives that decide to do an international externship. I’ve documented time and time again that sometimes a negligent midwife is worse than giving birth alone, and the stories of women in other countries who suffered under an ignorant or cruel midwife are unlikely to ever be heard. The midwife international scandal is enough proof of how dirty this type of “training” really is.

This is the kind of off-the-wall opposition you get when you try to make home birth midwives meet a minimal standard of professionalism. You are suddenly racist and eliminationist, despite just asking for a license and insurance.