Monday, September 06, 2010

Should American Women Learn to Give Birth at Home? - TIME

I am a big believer in natural pregnancy and childbirth. Having gone through one pregnancy here in the US, I think I can safely comment that the birthing process is "overmedicalized" like the article quotes. There are innumerable tests, screenings and procedures to be undergone whether they are necessary or not. To make things interesting, doctors here never offer concrete advice regarding a lot of these screenings/tests. They only have "options" and then they leave it "upto to you", the patient, to decide. Doctors here seem more terrified of insurance companies and libel suits than they are concerned about the patient's health.

With that mistrust firmly in place, I decided to avoid a C-section at all costs. I went the natural route and even took a "natural childbirth" class. Our instructor was excellent but the class turned out to be pretty boring after a while. There's only so much anyone can tell you when you've already read a dozen books on the subject. One of the things that the class often talked about was home births. I had no plans of home birthing initially but midway through the pregnancy, I started having second thoughts. I bounced the idea around among family members just to get some perspective.

I thought the previous generation - my mom, mother-in-law (MIL hereafter) - would be supportive of home births largely because Indian parents are pro-natural. I was in for a surprise. My MIL, who had witnessed a few home births, was vehemently opposed. I explained to her how medicalized the process had become here in the US. But she had witnessed unforeseen complications and even loss of life in the home birthing environment because of lack of medical advancements. She was firmly in the hospital birthing camp. Ditto for my mom who thought that while we hear a lot of positive stories about home birthing, there are women who never live to tell the tale.

I have to admit that my fear of doctors and hospitals here in the US was not fully justified. The care that I received during labor/delivery was excellent. Doctors and nurses were very co-operative and supportive of my unmedicated birth. They did not once mention epidural (even though 95% of women here receive epidural routinely) until I asked for it myself. And all through 31 hours of labor, the nurses were so compassionate and helpful that I feel grateful to them. And my midwife didn't once mention C-section since I was doing well.

Sooo, I have revised my black-and-white impression of epidural, medical interventions and hospital births in the US. I still feel like epidural/pain medications are vastly overused. But there's a place for them (in cases like mine) as well. One of our friends, who was aghast when I said I was going epidural-free, asked me if I wished I'd taken epidural early on in labor. I stand by my decision and I don't regret it. If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it the same way. But next time around, I might give home birth more serious thought..:)