British Government Says Home Births Are Better Than Hospitals, Because This Debate Will Never Die

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pregnant-woman-doctorHere’s a headline from today’s New York Times that’s sure to cause controversy: ‘British Regulator Urges Home Births Over Hospitals for Uncomplicated Pregnancies.’

The paper reports that the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, part of the Department of Health, is urging women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth at home because they believe it’s safer. Yes, after years telling women “HAVE YOUR BABY IN A HOSPITAL OR ELSE,” they are now completely reversing their opinion. Because what’s more fun that watching a woman’s head spin as she tries to make the best decision for her and her family?

This contradicts everything British women – and basically all women in developed countries – have been told for years. Says the Times:

Mark Baker, clinical practice director for the health institute, said first-time mothers with low birth risks would now be advised that a midwife-led unit would be particularly suitable for them, while mothers who already have given birth would be told that a home birth would be equally safe for the baby and safer for the mother than a hospital. But women are still free to choose the option they are most comfortable with, Dr. Baker said. “This is all about women having a choice,” he said.

Women having a choice is like, my favorite thing in the world, so hats off to that. And look, I’ve had positive and negative experiences with midwives, doulas, hospitals — you name it and my two births took me there. I’ve arrived at the opinion that whatever makes the woman comfortable is what’s best, but I’m just a Doctor Of Googling Things On The Internet, so what do I really know? The thing that frustrates me about this story is that, while well-intentioned, it feels like yet another thing women now must stress over, another thing they can be measured against on the scale of How Perfect Of An Expecting Mom Are You?

Interestingly – and perhaps – depressingly – the article also says that such a recommendation won’t be happening in the US anytime soon. The reason? Money.

“We believe that hospitals and birthing centers are the safest places for birth, safer than home,” said Dr. Jeffrey L. Ecker, the chairman of the committee on obstetrics practice for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Under Britain’s integrated health system, if there is a complication, “they have a process and protocol for appropriately and quickly getting you somewhere else,” said Dr. Ecker, who added that he did not believe the British-style guidelines would come to America anytime soon. If such a recommendation were made in the United States, doctors might worry about losing patients to midwives.

That concern is absent in Britain’s taxpayer-funded system. “There are no financial incentives in the U.K. for doctors to deliver in a particular setting because there is no personal gain,” said Dr. Baker of the health institute.

Perhaps that is the most telling piece of information in this whole article – that prioritizing the health of American women and children will always come second to making a profit.

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