By Sheila Roth, CNM, Midwest Women's Care/Research Medical Center - Published in KC Nursing News
As the practice of midwifery grows, it’s important for pregnant women to understand the value and importance a hospital setting can provide to them and their unborn baby. A recent study published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health finds that midwives are getting busier, delivering 8.1 percent of the country’s babies in 2009 — a record high. The practice of midwifery can happen in the home setting, birth centers and in hospitals.
When pregnant women are asked why they want a birth center or home, often the reply is “the home setting or birth center provides a low-intervention delivery” and “a more relaxed setting than a hospital.”
As a practicing midwife for more than 20 years, and delivering more than 1,000 babies, I partner with women to help them achieve their birth plan, ensuring that they have the best and safest environment possible. Recent studies show that giving birth in a hospital is considerably safer than having a baby at home or in a birth center. And while many of the more than 25,000 home births that occur annually are spontaneous, or unplanned, there is considerable risk to the mother and baby, even when the pregnancy is considered “low risk.”
The New York Times recently published a study about the risks and rewards of home births, birth center births and hospital births.
“Researchers analyzed data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2006 to 2009 on almost 14 million births, including 130,000 non-hospital deliveries. They examined both early death (within seven days of birth) and neonatal death (within 28 days) among singleton full-term babies without congenital malformations. No matter how they parsed the numbers, babies born outside hospitals had higher rates of death.
Overall, babies delivered by midwives at home had nearly four times the risk for death compared with those delivered by hospital-based midwives, with the risk highest if the birth was the woman’s first. With 25,000 home births per year in the United States, this means about 23 additional neonatal deaths annually. Babies delivered by midwives in freestanding birthing centers had more than twice the risk for death compared with those delivered by midwives in hospitals.”
In the old days, hospital settings were stale and cold. However, recently many hospitals, including HCA Midwest Health’s Centerpoint Medical Center, Menorah Medical Center, Overland Park Regional Medical Center and Research Medical Center, have worked with patients to redesign maternity units with a more natural setting and worked with care providers to develop more amenities to make the childbirth process peaceful, natural and “low intervention.”
Midwives proudly champion women’s birth plans and work in partnership with them to ensure the plan is carried out. But one thing is certain — having the expert staff and advanced setting of a hospital available is of great importance.