Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Is having a home birth selfish?

This was a question posted on the popular 'Mumsnet' website and caused a lot of response. I have thought about this question a lot (insomnia gives you time to think!), and I guess my response to that would be that there are many decisions we have to make as parents that are life changing, for example:
  • is it selfish to vaccinate / not-vaccinate?
  • is it selfish to place a child in full-time nursery care / be a full-time parent?
  • is it selfish to home-educate / use state schooling?
  • is it selfish to have one child / have 4+ children?

All of the decisions we make as parents are difficult ones: all we can hope to do is make the best decision, based on the information and evidence we have, at that time. Choosing to give birth at home does involve risks, but so does choosing to give birth in hospital and contrary to popular belief; hospital does not guarantee a safe outcome.

Planning a home birth based on the evidence available, is shown to be a safe, normal choice and is nothing new; Women have birthed, and will continue to birth in the place that feels right for them. The question of being selfish is therefore an unnecessary and judgemental one to pose. We are all individuals who have to make choices - as with the examples above they may not be the same choices that other parents may make, but they are no less valuable or 'right'. Birth and parenting is not 'black & white' but is made up of many shades, and every day brings new challenges and choices. I know I don't always get it right, but when it comes to important, life influencing decisions, I try to make the best decision I can at that time!

Selfishness aside, having a baby is a unique, life-changing experience; for some women they will need all the interventions that high-tech birth can offer, for some women they will choose to give birth in their local hospital, and for some women they will choose to give birth in the comfort of their own home. All choices should be respected, all women should receive the best care they can, and all women should feel supported in the decision they have made, rather than bullied, coerced or belittled into doing something that is not right for them.

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