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Childbirth Choices

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Every Woman Deserves a Safe, Satisfying Birth 

The Midwives Alliance believes that every woman deserves a safe, satisfying, and fulfilling childbirth experience. Every baby deserves to be born gently and surrounded by comfort, reverence, and love. And every family, however its members define it, deserves to have their wishes and desires privileged in childbirth and the early postpartum period. A hallmark of midwifery care is the superior education and counseling midwives provide to their clients.

Midwives Trust that Women Are Smart

Midwives work in partnership with women in the decision-making process. However, midwives are committed to supporting women to make their own way through the maze of choices during pregnancy, labor, birth, and parenting. Midwives trust that women are smart, motivated, and capable enough to make well-informed choices once they are given the opportunity to review an array of evidence about prenatal, postpartum, and newborn care, and other reproductive health issues. True choice can only be made in the context of informed, unhurried, unpressured, well-considered, and empowered decision-makers.

Midwives Help Women to Make Informed Decisions

Midwives help women make informed decisions about their pregnancies and births, including where, how, and with whom they give birth. Midwives endeavor to assist women in understanding the full range of birth options. There are almost unlimited choices women can make surrounding their childbirth experiences. Choices range from from selecting prenatal education, to creating a nourishing pregnancy diet, to crafting a birth plan, to building a support team, to deciding where and with whom to give birth, to choosing health care providers for newborns, to incorporating cultural and personal rituals into birth and parenting. Midwives are in the business of helping women make choices. Pregnant and parenting women make choices in the context of the rest of their lives. Only they understand fully the complexities, pressures, and challenges under which they are living.

Midwives Support Women’s Own Choices

A midwife-led birth gives a woman a measure of control generally unavailable with a physician-led hospital births—the freedom to move, eat, bathe, or whatever else might help her labor and birth more confidently. The role of a midwife is to monitor labor, guiding and supporting the birthing woman safely through the birth process. For many women, care with a midwife allows them to birth their way, safely and naturally, supported by the people they love. Many studies show that midwifery care through labor and delivery lowers complication rates and reduces the likelihood of unnecessary cesarean section.

Giving Birth at Home 

Women have given birth in their homes, attended by other women, from the beginning of humankind.

Following the rhythm of labor with support from friends and loved ones, feeling the uterus contract stronger and stronger, trusting an innate wisdom and ability to see the process through, giving birth in the position a woman’s body seeks for best effort, experiencing the intensity of pushing the baby out into the light, and hugging the newborn in awe to smell and admire and suckle.

This is the picture of normal healthy human birth, designed to complete the transformation of woman to mother, fetus to newborn, bonding them together for life.

Unfortunately it is not how most mothers and babies experience birth in this country. Today in the U.S. only 1 – 2% of births take place in a home setting. Birth shifted to hospital settings in the 19th century, attended primarily by male physicians. But the increased use of medical technology applied to pregnancy, labor and birth, while intended to improve the health of mothers and babies, has failed to produce improved outcomes.

The U.S. continues to rank behind most of the developed world in terms of infant and maternal mortality rates. The escalating use of epidurals, vacuum extraction, inductions, intravenous pain medication, antibiotic prophylaxis, and surgical birth has in fact resulted in a cesarean section rate of over 32% nationally along with increased incidences of infection, prematurity, low birth weight, and unsatisfactory, sometimes traumatic, experiences for mothers, babies and families.

Homebirth provides the perfect environment for mother-baby bonding by allowing continuous physical contact between mother and newborn. This attachment is not only crucial to a mother’s transition and healing, it enables a baby to respond fully and joyfully to life and develop future healthy relationships. Homebirth also gives fathers and partners an expanded role in providing comfort care to the laboring woman, maintaining a safe and supportive space in which she can do the work of labor, and touching or even assisting the birth of their baby. New parents tell us this hands-on experience gives them more joy and confidence with parenting their newborn. These benefits are extended to siblings and others who witness the birth, hear the first sounds, or watch the newborn unfold in the moments after birth as they welcome this new one to their family and their home.

For low-risk women with healthy pregnancies and thorough prenatal care with a midwife homebirth may be an excellent option.