It is important to know that hospitals provide only high risk medical obstetrics, received from a medical doctor or a certified nurse-midwife (CNM), who will also be practicing obstetrics (note: for more information on nurse-midwives or medical midwives - see FAQ "How are your midwife services different than a hospital midwife"). This is important to know, because your planned birth location directly correlates to your type of practitioner and modality of care. Therefore, for most parents, the choice of giving birth at home or a hospital is prudently addressed early in pregnancy. As the parents research, read, and contemplate their options, they will inevitably choose the best location for their unique family wants and needs. It is our desire throughout this website to give out balanced and truthful information on what to expect from a specific planned birth location.
Currently in the United States, a medical doctor attended hospital birth is the conventional mainstream idea that most newly pregnant families first think of for their choice of a birth location. However, this is not the case in most other countries around the world. In most countries, pregnant women see midwives first for their maternity care, and only if a high risk medical condition arises (which is statistically rare under non-medical midwife care) are they referred to an obstetrician. As a matter of fact, in most cases they cannot even see an obstetrician unless they are referred to the obstetrician in writing by midwife orders. These countries have some of the best statistics for low rates of newborn and maternal death. Conversely, the United States currently has the second worst statistics for newborn and maternal death rates in all of the world's industrialized countries, as it is dominated by medicalized birth in a hospital setting. This status is certainly ironic. Shouldn't the United States, who spends more on healthcare than any other country, have the best statistical outcomes for maternity care that money can buy? How could this poor status possibly have developed?
To begin with, let us briefly consider how modern obstetrics gained a monopoly on childbirth in the United States. In the early 1900's obstetricians made a business decision to force women in the U.S. to give birth in hospitals, even though they knew that homebirth was safer. Medicalized maternity care was recognized as the 'bread and butter' of revenue for hospitals, and continues to be so today. Thereafter, midwives who continued to provide homebirth maternity care were deliberately marginalized, persecuted, and all but eradicated, solely for financial profit by the enshrined medial industry. This was both done historically, and continues to be done today, by using propaganda, fear, frivolous litigation, malice, and other forms of persecution. You can find rich sources of this history by doing a simple internet search on this topic. Yet, despite childbirth being pushed into the hospital through medical fear and propaganda, in recent years midwives have resurfaced in response to an unstoppable consumer demand for midwife attended natural childbirth, which is growing rapidly each year. This has no doubt developed because of the de-humanized hospitalization and medicalization of healthy childbirth that has caused more harm than good to women and babies.
More harm than good? How can we say this? Haven't obstetrics lowered the maternal and newborn death rate since the 1800's? Surprisingly, the maternal and newborn death rate has been lowered primarily because medical doctors finally learned the importance of washing their hands. For example, during the late 1800's and early 1900's medical doctors went from a surgical autopsy, straight to a hospital delivery, without washing their hands. Thus the spread of childbed fever was the most prominent cause of hospital deaths during that time period. Any statistical reduction of the death rate of women and children was not due to the practice of obstetrics, but rather to good hygiene.
What about today? Are routine obstetrics harming women and babies? The answer is yes. Why? To illustrate this, consider how the practice of conventional obstetrics requires medical doctors to view all of their patients as 'high risk', even though statistically over 98% of all women start out low risk, and are able to maintain their low risk status throughout pregnancy and birth with the careful supervision and counseling of a Certified Professional Midwife. This means that all of the testing, Rx drugs, routine intervention, and invasive medical management, done to high risk patients in a hospital birth, will also be routinely done to all low risk patients, all without any true medical indication whatsoever. Fear, propaganda, institutional pressure, and financial greed, has caused mainstream medical doctors to treat all pregnant patients as the same - high risk. Powerful drugs such as Pitocin, Stadol, Epidural (to mention a few), are routinely used. Hospitals have a profit agenda and a timeframe to work within, and if your labor does not fit into their time limit, they will most certainly intervene to make things happen 'faster.' Add to this the unnecessary and fear-based intervention and invasive management, and you have a medicalized system that actually causes more complications than they are supposedly preventing. Just look at the sky-rocking cesarean section rate, and poor maternal and newborn death rates for proof of this fact.
"Unfortunately, the role of obstetrics has never been to help women give birth. There is a big difference between the medical discipline we call "obstetrics" and something completely different, the art of midwifery. If we want to find safe alternatives to obstetrics, we must rediscover midwifery. To rediscover midwifery is the same as giving back childbirth to women. And imagine the future, if surgical teams were at the service of the midwives and the women, instead of controlling them." -Michel Odent, MD (An obstetrician with the heart of a midwife)