I would like to start with a disclaimer. This article is not to convince anyone against home births. The human being is wondrous and perfect and shouldn’t be interfered with unless there’s a problem that poses a risk to life or health, as interference can cause undesirable side effects.
That said, the decision about whether or not the birthing process should involve medical intervention should be based on real facts, not on emotion or a political agenda. I say this because I had a frightening experience several years ago when I came to New York for the birth of my daughter-in-law’s third child. When my daughter-in-law told me she wanted to have a home birth and asked how I felt about the idea, I told her that I thought it was fine as long as she surrounded herself with a trained healthcare team. By this I meant that the practitioners attending the birth should know how to handle emergencies should the need arise. They should also be backed up by a doctor and be affiliated with a hospital. She assured me that her midwife met these requirements.
Most of the time, when a woman is having a baby, the job of the health attendant is really just to support the mother and make sure that everything is proceeding as it should. In reality, anyone can provide this help. However, the reason a woman should surround herself with trained people is that if something does go wrong, it’s a situation of pikuach nefesh, and the midwife or doctor has the knowledge and experience to prevent a negative outcome.
Women who choose home birth over hospital birth do so in order to avoid certain interventions that have become standard practice in hospitals all over North America. While some of these protocols may have been instituted for the well-being of mothers and/or babies, many of them are followed solely because of the time and financial savings they offer to the hospitals and staff.
However, the trend toward home birth that has become popular in New York seems to have moved from the realm of the rational and to have become almost cultish. The purpose for choosing home birth should be to avoid unnecessary interventions. The purpose is not to send women and babies back to the 17th century. If difficulties arise, it is the midwife’s job to help rather than stand there and say that it’s better to let nature take its course.
In the olden days it was common for women to die in childbirth, Rachamana litzlan, especially when hemorrhaging couldn’t be controlled. Today there are medications and procedures that help. The hours immediately after birth are a time when a woman needs to be monitored constantly.