Equal rights for all women: Homebirth Australia

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I have decided today to publish a speech that I made at an electoral forum almost 2 years ago now. I was pregnant with my little girl who was born at home the following November of 2010. Today I share this with my readership and ask you to consider how you would feel if your own choices in labour and birth became restricted by policy; then head here for a set of quick instructions to support another womans choice; or of course your own. Perhaps when you see this come up in the media, ask yourself if you actually do know enough about the topic to pass judgement?

 

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In Geelong we are extremely fortunate to have a variety of choices in maternity care. As both a Geelong midwife and mother expecting my second child, I support a woman’s right to choose what is appropriate for her body, baby and family. In our region home birthing is the choice of many women and a number of our midwives and other health professionals are among the group making this choice, I am one.

My experience is that women birthing at home are among the most informed and prepared expectant mothers and do so in safety and with extreme care, consideration and planning, with the attendance of a very skilled group of midwives. It concerns me deeply that this group are denied equal rights in their maternity care. Home birth is simply the right choice for some people, as hospital birth and options such as epidural, pethidine or caesarean are right for others, and each choice has its own health and other considerations.

I have seen an unhealthy attitude and arrogance from medical ‘professionals’ who commonly fail to offer basic common courtesy to their midwifery colleagues, fail to understand the complexity and broad nature of the midwifery education and skill set, and perhaps most disappointingly, fail to show any interest in learning more about that which they do not know. Furthermore many representatives of the obstetric community have acted quite unprofessionally in their public denigration of home birthing particularly over the past months. It is alarming that people with such degree of education and presence within maternity care lack the essential critical thinking skill to recognise publicly that the practices of a hospital are potentially detrimental to women, and they alone do not have the full scope of experience required to pass comment in the specialist area of home birthing.

It concerns me that, perhaps as a result of uninformed media, the public is responding with such concern over safety in relation to the supporters of home birthing, and yet clearly are not aware of the ‘risks’ or perhaps rather, implications of and associated with other aspects of birthing such as obstetric care, drugs and interventions. Many of the public who are commenting against home birthing would also be accepting of drug and surgical intervention that in themselves carry risk.

It upsets me that the private midwifery community are being painted as renegades and women choosing their services as extremist and radical.

There is no onus on the obstetric community to become accountable to the general public by publicising intervention and injury rates. It is the obstetric community who practice without significant external critique; and moreover, with an attitude to reflect their ‘untouchable’ image. Many obstetricians continue to practice their own ‘brand’ of care well after evidence has highlighted better practice, and the public have no awareness of the practices for which each professional are known within their workplace and have no formula for choice of carer that incorporates this honest level of detail.

The threat of compromising ones own employment by publicising bad practice is ever looming while social injustices prevail. I question the right of such a closed society to impede outside of their specialist area [high-risk birthing? Surgical birthing?] on the professional body of Midwifery whose performance statistics are generally publicly available, who take responsibility for their actions through transparency. I strongly suggest that we would improve birthing outcomes [read: ‘safety’?] by funding and supporting home birthing where women receive true gold standard care – a midwife giving a woman their full attention rather than rushing from room to room, a midwife who interacts with colleagues and professional bodies to improve practice and adhere to international standards, offering carefully personalised preparation and ‘management’ when working with women; engaging the women in her experience via interactive health care. Midwifery care could even be seen as ‘preventative care’ if given its full scope of practice. I see this extending broadly to relief on GP services, reduction in rates of post natal depression and increased rates of breastfeeding that we know has great cost saving potential.

I hesitate to look at or present this issue from such a cold perspective however. At the crux of it this cannot be made into an issue about ego, money, figures and statistics. At the bottom line women must have the right to choose, without restriction.

To question my rights when planning a pregnancy even when willing to pay thousand of dollars to preserve my choice; that some parliamentary, political, legislative or other influence might somehow gain control over my bodily autonomy and restrict my choice has been an ongoing distress.

Public expression of the uninformed opinion of birth as dangerous or risky perpetuates the culture of fear that incites an unhealthy panic from women and families. It also perpetuates public opinion and distaste toward homebirth based on false information; though I would have to say that this perspective is the minority. I speak with Mums and Dads every day who support my choices even if they are not the choices they would make for their families. Healthcare and policy making should be formed without bias, particularly inherent long formed bias stemming from a culture of ignorance. Danger and risk in pregnancy is something from the movies, a dramatic and unnecessary perspective of birth that is not what you will see when you enter a birthing suite or even caesarean surgery – and particularly not what you would have seen if you had walked into my living room on May 24th, 2008. Birthing does not need to be frenzied and if you know or read about the way mammals give birth you will learn that such frenzy is not productive in labour at all. I suggest that such a fearful attitude to birth is not conducive to productive, high quality healthcare and is also a potential reason for the increasing rates of drugs and intervention that offer no improvement to infant ‘safety’ and in effect also do little to promote the safety of natural birth.

I ask those in a position of political influence on birthing to let go of their fears, think before passing judgement and focus on the right of a woman to make choices for her own body, baby and family without restriction.”

If you made it here and feel so inclined, please read about the impending decision making being made for women without consulation and send off the quick email template provided in support. Click here.

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