The recent death of a newborn baby girl during an attempted home birth in Charlotte, North Carolina, highlights just about everything that’s wrong with home birth as it is currently practiced in the U.S.
Though details are still somewhat sketchy, the situation seems to have been one of unlicensed midwives attending an illegal (in North Carolina) home birth. Complications arose, emergency care was delayed (possibly due to fear of prosecution) and a baby died.
The response from those already opposed to home birth has been swift and predictable. In the article, Dr. Amy Tuteur, a non-practicing OB and blogger in Boston who can be counted on to provide the ‘anti’ view on just about any subject related to natural childbirth, predictably blames home birth per se as the culprit.
But what about a legal system that forces a woman seeking a home birth underground and into the hands of questionably competent midwives who practice with little supervision and no link to the larger obstetric community? There are multiple levels of failure in this case, and there’s plenty of blame to spread around.
Home birth is easy to outlaw but impossible to eliminate. There will always be women who will insist on having their babies at home (and as I’ve written previously, there are some sound medical reasons for doing so), and fear of legal consequences isn’t likely to deter them.
So do we work to make home birth in the U.S. as safe as it is in much of Europe and Canada, or do we adopt a “tough luck–you got what you asked for” attitude when a baby dies? I’m a strong proponent of the former…