This report from a minor Australian paper is headlined ‘Home Births Still Safe, Says Expert.’ It quotes Professor Michael Chapman, who is director of women’s and babies’ health at the St George and Sutherland hospitals. But that is not exactly what he said.
What he said was that St George Hospital had run a successful home birth service for the last two years. He also said that home births made up about only 1.5% of the total births associated with the hospital, and that the home birth option was only available where the birth was assessed by medical staff as low risk. Home births always took place with qualified personnel present, and with the hospital as a backup in case of any problems.
This kind of moderate approach is the exact opposite of the mindless rejection of Western medicine promoted by organisations like Joyous Birth.
Birth is a natural process. It is also a dangerous process. As many as one in ten women died in childbirth prior to the development of modern obstetric care, and infant mortality rates were some twenty times higher. See this Los Angeles record for just one example of the dramatic change in infant mortality rates in the mid 20th Century.
It may be in part the coldness and technicality of hospital maternity care that makes some women feel so alienated and confused about hospital births. Hospitals need to ensure warm human care and continuity of care during the birthing process, active involvement of women and their partners in choices about care and birthing options, clear communication about the risks of each of those options, and about what is happening at each stage of pregnancy and birth, so that the mother does not feel like an object or an optional extra.
However, with the facts on the massively better outcomes for mothers and babies with proper medical care so clear, it is almost criminally negligent to have a child without any medical advice, or to encourage others to do the same.
I feel deeply sorry for Janet Fraser. The loss of a child at any time is a deeply, horrifyingly painful thing. Her experience ought not to be an opportunity for gloating by her opponents.
But as Andrew Bolt points out, it may be an opportunity for learning, and for better outcomes for others.