Ricki Lake is back with a new daytime talk show, The Ricki Lake Show, which debuted this past month. She wasted no time diving in to discuss controversial subjects this week, including her 2008 documentary, The Business of Being Born.
This film, which followed several pregnant women’s journeys, including Lake’s, was created to help educate women about the different birthing options, including home birth. Lake and her director, Abby Epstein, followed up with a second film, More Business of Being Born, in November, 2011. The film highlighted several celebrities, including Cindy Crawford, Molly Ringwald and Melissa Joan Hart, who all openly shared their birthing experiences.
Though both films were well received by the public, they were criticized by the American Medical Association, which said firmly in a statement: “The safest setting for labor, delivery and the immediate postpartum period is in the hospital.” So just how risky are home births, and why do many mothers nationwide choose to have one over a traditional hospital birth?
Lake, whose first child was born in a hospital, was excited when she learned about the option of a home birth. She did her research, found a midwife, and had what she described as an “empowering, transformative” experience because she was “in control” of her own body.
“I became passionate about making sure other new parents had the same opportunities," she explained. "I felt most pregnant women were overly subjected to the ‘what could go wrong’ stories and fear-based information.”
Lake said she and Epstein have received “hundreds of e-mails from parents who credit the film for setting them on a path to a positive birth experience or saving them from a potentially damaging one.” She believes the film speaks for itself but also recognizes that home birth is not for everyone.
Though home births in America have increased by 30 percent in this past decade, they still make up only 1 percent of all births. Statistics show women 35 and up, with low-risk, full-term pregnancies, make up the majority of home births. Most are assisted by midwives, and some use doulas as well. Doulas need no medical training but provide physical and emotional assistance and act as a labor coach before, during and after the birthing process. Many midwives have masters degrees in the nursing field, but many have little knowledge and experience, which worries health care officials greatly. And even more worrisome are the many horror stories all over the Internet.
Mindy Bizzell of Washington State is just one example of a home birth gone very wrong. During labor, her midwife discovered the baby was breech, so they rushed to a hospital nearly 45 minutes away. A doctor delivered the baby by forceps in the hospital parking lot, but it was too late; the baby later died of brain injuries. Another woman, a home birth advocate who had lobbied for home birth education in her hometown in Australia, died of cardiac arrest this past January while giving birth to her second child at home. The baby was healthy but never met her mother.
Health care officials say hospital births provide the safest environments should anything go wrong during delivery with either the mother or child. Some statistics show one in three home births end up with hospital deliveries or complications, though home birth advocates would argue otherwise. They call it a “beautiful, natural experience” and say they felt safer in their own home, surrounded by familiar things and their loved ones and sans all those intrusive needles, IV’s and loud noises that often accompany hospital births.
I used a midwife for my first pregnancy; she was actually a family friend. We would discuss mutual friends and what we ate for dinner as I propped my feet in the stirrups, and she often offered comforting guidance and advice when my hormones went awry. But after a rather harrowing labor and delivery (in a hospital, sans drugs) I vowed that I would never, ever endure that amount of pain again if it could be avoided. Hello, epidural!
But on the flip side, I can’t say I was particularly fond of the whole hospital experience itself with my subsequent deliveries.
There were those pesky nurses poking their heads in the door in the middle of the night, the annoying loudspeaker announcements, and worst of all, the snoring roommate on the other side of the divider in my sterile room. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, I would have hopped out of my bed and strangled her with my bare hands in my postpartum hormonal state.
Sleeping at home in my own bed, surrounded by peaceful music or even perhaps silence, would have been much more welcomed. But considering I had complications with two out of my four births, I was grateful in hindsight for the quick hands of the doctors and nurses and the neonatal unit that cared for my baby when things didn’t go quite as planned. I shudder to think what might have happened had I not been under their expertise.
Though Lake feels personally attacked for the fuss the AMA made over her films, she still stands by her support for home births and continues to educate and encourage other women to seek out their options.
Moms, what do you think? Have you ever had a home birth or would you consider one? Do you think they are as dangerous as the experts make them to seem? We want to hear from you!