Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Wax Study and Dealing with Criticism of Homebirth

In July 2010 the homebirth community was rocked by a study, known informally as the Wax Study, that suggested babies born at home die 2 to 3 times more often than those born in the hospital. Opponents of homebirth (and yes, they do exist) were gleeful and stepped up their campaign to stamp out legal homebirth. Homebirth advocates immediately began trying to refute this study, which contradicts all the others that are supportive of homebirth with licensed midwives.

Luckily the science is on our side for this one. The Wax Study was so controversial and so badly done that Nature printed a refutation of it. I highly recommend you read it.

Homebirth Study Investigated

One of the many reasons women choose homebirth is to avoid the abuse that many feel is endemic. The growing trend of homebirth and lots of people complaining publicly about their treatment during labor has started to get attention. This editorial in the Journal of Perinatal Education is excellent.

Abuse in Hospital-Based Birth?

There's a lot of evidence out there suggesting that in a low-risk pregnancy homebirth with a trained and license midwife is as safe or safer than hospital birth. I won't go into that here, as that's it's own post (or 7). Regardless of the evidence, homebirthers are often berated by well-meaning people for their choice to have their baby at home. If you spend enough time in homebirth circles you'll hear stories of keeping birth plans secret, arrested midwives, DCFS being called on homebirthers simply for homebirthing, harassment by medical professionals for birthing choices, and more. In states where homebirth is integrated into the maternity care system this harassment is less of a problem. Among my Canadian friends homebirth is seen as not a huge deal. Here I've been personally told that I want my babies dead. I was investigated by DCFS (much to their annoyance) after my hospital transfer (birth story coming on Friday). Like I said, it's bad.

There are a host of ways to deal with this, all of which depend on your situation and personality.

1) Don't talk about homebirth plans. Birth plans are no one's business except that of the parents and their chosen birth attendants.
2) Emphasize the safety of homebirth and discuss how homebirth midwives deal with an emergency.
3) Talk about homebirth as a civil liberties and women's rights issues.
4) Talk about why you chose homebirth and what about hospital birth is unacceptable to you.
5) If necessary, get a lawyer. Official harassment tends to stop quickly once a lawyer is involved.

I'd be happy to hear how you dealt with harassment for your birth choices. It's a problem almost every Illinois homebirther faces.

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