The rage I have felt building this week with the media frenzy of criticising and condemning Meghan Markle’s birth choices (or at least what is being said are her birth choices – what do we really know?!) has reached what I can now only hope is its peak. I am writing this at gone midnight after an evening out with friends, because I got home and saw this Guardian article being shared online and couldn’t rest until I got this out!
I’m almost at a loss as to where to begin with it, there are so many outlandish statements and so much fear inducing language about birth in this opinion based article, that I hope no pregnant woman has to suffer reading it at a time when she is so open and vulnerable to this unnecessary negativity and lack of credit to their intelligence. Unfortunately, I have no doubt that it is exactly the most vulnerable and anxious of parents to be who will have been drawn in by the misleading title
‘Meghan Markle’s home birth should not blind us to the risks for most women’.
If you didn’t know any better, and you only know what you know, the title would lead you to believe that home birth is a risky choice for most women. The statistics however do not back that up. For ‘low risk’ women having their second baby at home the evidence shows us that not only is it just as safe to give birth at home, but that by choosing to do so will lower your risk of interventions including episiotomy (a cut being made in the perineum) forceps or ventouse delivery, epidural analgesia and c-section birth – things many women say they would prefer to avoid when preparing for birth. For ‘low risk’ first time mums, these benefits still apply but there is a slightly increased risk for baby, but the overall risk level remains very low. I would urge you to check out the Birthplace Outcomes Study to better understand the pros and cons of each place, because I know you intelligent, articulate, strong women sure as hell aren’t basing your decision on what you read in the papers about Meghan’s plans!
The author goes on to admit that there are many reasons why women opt for home birth ‘but prey God that it’s never because they have been made fashionable’…. Can we just reflect for a moment on the fact that it became ‘fashionable’ for women to give birth in hospital some time ago before any benefits to mothers and babies were proven, and in fact many died from Childbed Fever due to the poor sanitary conditions before Florence Nightingale came to shake things up. That for years women have been stripped of their dignity, faced unnatural birthing conditions and encountered ever increasing intervention rates with no corresponding improvement in maternal or neonatal outcomes, yet it has been deemed the ‘safe’ or ‘proper’ thing for a woman to do to take care of herself and her baby. Of course things have improved hugely since birth moved into hospital, its 2019, but why is the assumption there that birth in hospital = safer birth when time after time it has been shown that it is not necessarily true?
The authors description of one to one care at home, with the option to transfer in to hospital quickly and safely at any time the mother chooses or needs to, as a ‘budget version of a royal home birth’ making it seem as though the care offered on the NHS to women at home is lacking. I mean there’s no denying our NHS is struggling in many ways, but the care provided by homebirth midwives is usually excellent, and one to one care is known to bring about many benefits to birthing women. Midwives carry with them all the necessary equipment to deal with any complications or emergencies that could (in rare circumstances) arise, they are experts in normal healthy birth and in spotting the signs of labour deviating from that early meaning women can transfer before it becomes an emergency situation, and for most families the transfer time is low and care is not delayed any longer than it would take to transfer from a midwifery unit or to have an obstetrician reach you from whichever ward he was on before being called down to you.
She goes on to belittle the intelligence of women and their ability to make decisions in the best interests of their unborn babies when presented with unbiased information, implying that mothers who are young, or expecting their first baby, might simply make decisions about their care based on someone rich or famous having done it first. It is embarrassing and infuriating to see women depicted as having so little mind of their own! As it is to read her imply that all home birthing women are frolicking in birth pool, surrounded by scented candles, acting as though birth is as easy as sneezing a grape out of ones vajayjay.
Birthing at home isn’t anyone trying to imply that birth is easy, it isn’t about creating an insta-worthy birth album, or proving any points. For most women its about tapping into their innate female power, not interrupting the process with bright lights, loud conversations, an uncomfortable car ride or unfamiliar adrenaline inducing faces peering at us when we know that is not how to best treat the primal process of birth. It’s not always pretty, its certainly not often chic, but it IS a safe option for many women.
We need to change this conversation around birth. We need to stop seeing birthing women as emergencies in need of medical support, and recognise that for most, it is a life event simply in need of calm loving support – and that can be provided anywhere! I don’t feel there’s any real chance of homebirth suddenly becoming the new norm simply because Meghan Markle has decided she might give it a go – the national average homebirth rate is around 2%, even locally in Southend where it is considered we have a high homebirth rate, its only around 6%, I actually think that her showing women that it is an OPTION is a great thing. Nobody is going to martyr their baby to try to give birth like their favourite royal, but for those who it’s a great option for other reasons they may well go on to have a better and safer experience at home than if they’d followed the actual fashion for hospital birth!
If you want to get on board with understanding the differences in birth places, how to optimise your experience in all situations and how to minimise (probably not remove all – soz) discomfort. Check out our group and private antenatal hypnobirthing courses, and if you really want to parent like a royal you’ll need to be at my next cloth nappy workshop, rumour has it Harry and Meghan are all over this eco parenting jazz!