Thursday, April 06, 2006

Strong Reactions to Midwife Prosecution Story

Earlier in the week, I posted about a New York Times article, "Prosecution of Midwife Casts Light on Home Births." Via the paper's new "Most Blogged" feature (and really, way to go NYTimes), I discovered a blog called Althouse, and found that at least 60 comments on the topic had been posted.

Regarding the issue of midwife prosecution in Indiana, blog author Ann Althouse said, "Every birth is a potential disaster! So is every car trip. Lots of us assume we will be lucky, especially when the odds are in our favor. That's why when we lose we say 'Why me?' We rarely think to say 'Why not me?' The question is whether the state ought to save us -- and our children -- from our relentless optimism."

Her post, and the topic, elicited strong reactions from readers, with a range of viewpoints. Among the most intriguing:

  • "Personally, the gross-out factor is pretty compelling. Would you sleep in a bed where someone had given birth? I hope they threw out that mattress...and the box springs, just to be safe."
    Lucky for you, someone explains further down the thread how the bed is handled, and explains that many women having home births don't give birth on their backs in bed, anyway.

  • "My mother is certified nurse-midwife (master's from Columbia U.) who practices in hospitals with full medical backup in cases of complications, which of course are relatively frequent in childbirth. Her opinion as a feminist who believes in empowering women is that anyone who has a birth at home is an idiot, and the "lay midwives" (as she calls them) who help them are in over their head and grossly irresponsible."
    Wow. Does that sound very "feminist" to you?

  • "Should the state save us from our relentless optimism? I guess the question is where should the state draw the line. It allows pregnant women to get in a car as often as they like despite the fact that two-thirds of pregnancy trauma is the result of car accidents. I wonder if more babies would be saved by disallowing pregnant women from the use of a car than would be saved by disallowing home births."
    Interesting point...More babies would be saved by a lot of things we're not willing to do as a culture.

  • "I think it should be noted that the midwife being prosecuted in Indiana could legally practice in more than 30 states based on the certification she already has (provided she applied for the particular state's license)...This not so much a case about standards-of-care as about market regulation, which Indiana is within its rights to do, but where is the research supporting hospital births? Anecdotes are nice, but when the research doesn't support a position rational people should take a step back and reconsider."

  • "Trying to either 'empower' or 'pamper' yourself by experiencing childbirth without all available medical technology at hand, is dangerously, stupidly self-indulgent, to my mind. Sure, most childbirths come off without a hitch, but why take that sort of risk? I think if the midwife is being prosecuted, the parents should too, though I'm sure they're suffering horribly for their decision already..."

  • From the blog author, responding to "People have them in the tub, on birthing stools, on their hands and knees, even standing up."
    "Oh, good lord! How about standing on their head? Is this really the time to be showing off?"
    Check further down in the comments for a little lesson on gravity.

  • "My opinion of most home-birthing, based on little personal research but a lot of anecdotal evidence, is that it's more of a Momzilla thing than anything else. This woman is so desperate to be at the center of a big dramatic event that she'll create a set piece, with herself as the lead actress and the baby as a prop."
    Kind of harsh, eh? How would you have birth be focused if not primarily on the woman? What are the ethics of the mother as patient vs the fetus as patient?

  • Again from the blog author: "What a vaginal birth does to a baby's head -- if you did anything like that to your child after it was born -- with your hands, I mean, not your vagina -- it would be horrific child abuse. You can say it's 'natural' -- but it's an extreme thing to do to a baby and it can cause permanent damage. To treat it as a spiritual experience for the adults is creepy."
    Uh, okay.

    Go check out the thread for the full range of interesting comments, including discussion of the right to refuse care, insurance coverage for birth, attitudes toward home birth safety, and more. One reader even posted a very long response related to her experience as a labor & delivery nurse here.

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    MeSH Tags: Home Birth; Midwifery
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