Monday, April 6, 2009

Misleading headlines! Homebirths!

The phenomenon of Free birthing, Unattended childbirth whatever it is called, women who choose to birth at home with no medical or midwifery assistance. This phenomenon continues to happen and we knew it was only a matter of time before we started hearing about some tragic deaths. Now it has been reported that there have been 4 tragic baby deaths in the last 9 months. The web is full of sites of how to do your own birth (DIY) homebirth complete with what to do if things go wrong, even DIY u tube videos on waterbirth.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that AT least four babies have died during home births in Sydney in the past nine months, including the daughter of one of Australia's most vocal advocates for hospital-free deliveries. These are homebirths, but they are unattended homebirths or freebirths, without midwives or doctors.
Janet Fraser, national convener of Joyous Birth, which encourages women to shun hospitals, is dealing with the death of her own baby during a water birth at her Croydon Park home. Ms Fraser went into labour at home assisted only by her partner and a female friend when things went horribly wrong.
It is woeful that women are forced to choose this option of birth because our maternity system does not offer them a safer option, informed choice or support their option of birth without feeling threatened, bullied or patronised by the medical profession.

Now that independent midwives are under threat of being not allowed to practice if they do not have indemnity insurance, due to National Registration we will be forcing more women to do it alone. Already there is debate as to whether to outlaw or ban homebirth. Alison Leeman for the ABC reports
So as long as the AMA and RANZCOG are hostile to homebirth -ideologically, not evidentially - the government is not prepared to stare them down
– how deplorable is that, banning homebirth, what sort of democracy are we? What happened to choice and women’s right to choose? We certainly do not want to go down the same road as our American counterparts who are not permitted to do homebirths and the fetus has more rights than the woman who carries the fetus.

The Honourable Minister of Health Nicola Roxon’s report on Maternity Services stops short of supporting Homebirth and independent midwifery. However the report does acknowledge the need to increase the role of the midwife within Maternity Services and listen to what the women of our country want and that is informed choice about how to birth their babies. Without feeling intimidated by paternalistic obstetricians.

Even when reading this news story at no time is it reported that these are unattended homebirths, that is no midwife or doctor in attendance – they stipulate that the
dangers of homebirth need to acknowledge and that there are down sides to a homebirth’
Dr Pesce said it was time the increased risks of home birth were acknowledged and addressed.
"There are one or two extra deaths per 1000 deliveries and I wish people would acknowledge that," Dr Pesce said.
"It's often presented as if there are no downsides to a home birth only up sides."
He said obstetricians and the health system had to take some responsibility and try to attract women back to the hospital system.

Australian College of Midwives president Professor Pat Brodie said more was urgently needed to be done to avoid future tragedies.
"We are very concerned about a maternity care system that is so abhorrent that women choose to do this (give birth without a midwife),'' Professor Brodie said.
She said the maternity services system needed to be re-organised so women were assigned to a single midwife who they knew and trusted and who could provide continuity of care throughout their pregnancy.

'Home births in Australia represent just 0.25 per cent of all births.
Of the 277,436 babies born in 2006, just 708 were home births.
The majority of the home births are done with the assistance of a midwife.'

Surprise, surprise hospitals are now asking the question? Why are women choosing to birth at home without medical or midwifery assistance? Dr Pesce described it well when he said “ In the hospital system we need to get our act together rather than make them (women) refugees of the system” well said doctor.

It is all about informed choice, allowing the woman to know her own body and make the right decisions. Collaborative work with our obstetricians, we need to work together each one acknowledging that each profession has an equal place. Midwives specialize in the ‘normal’ obstetricians specialize in the ‘abnormal’


Laura Jane said...

It is extremely difficult to remain calm and well-reasoned when the headlines are highjacked in such a sensationalist manner by the ones with the political clout.

Where is the woman's autonomy? Why are so many evidentially safe choices off the menu? The choices that are known to start the cascade of intervention that lead to our criminally high CS rate are the ones being PUSHED by the federal health policy makers.

It is really disappointing to have the scope of our practise - not to mention the birthing choices of women all over Australia- restricted by the federal government due to the influence of scaremongers.

The personal truly is the political, when you work in midwifery. To be a midwife involves this constant political struggle to preserve the rights of women. And sadly women themselves often don't understand the efforts we are taking on their behalf.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi there, would you like to present an online session using Elluminate on International Day of the Midwife - I'm organising a 24 hour virtual event:

Would love to have you on board for this!

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