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Home births on rise

Early in July of this year an interesting story hit the AP wire and was picked up and reported around the country. The headline read: “Home birth on the rise by a dramatic 20%.”

A midwife measures the height of the mother's ...

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Of course, we weren’t surprised. We have an excellent hospital and talented and dedicated OBs and labor and delivery nurses at Bonner General Hospital, and still, our midwifery practice and birth center here in Sandpoint are busier than ever.

The statistics reported in this article were very refreshing in light of the fear and tension that often surround pregnancy and delivery these days. In 2005 a study was published in the British Medical Journal based on close to 5,500 home births in the US and Canada. These births were attended by Certified Professional Midwives, or CPMs. (CPMs must meet rigorous training and testing requirements as are most practicing midwives in our area.) I am a CPM and LM.

A whopping 88% of births went just fine at home. Only 12% of women were transferred to hospitals, 9% for preventative reasons, and only 3% were transferred for emergencies.

Just 3% were emergency transfers—that’s a far cry from all the drama you see surrounding birth on television and in movies, isn’t it? Also, the infant mortality rate for home births in the US and Canada was found to be the same as at hospitals: about 2 out of every 1,000 births. Again, that is for home births attended by Certified Professional Midwives.

Home births were the norm at the turn of the 20th Century; by 1955 only 1% of births were taking place in the hospital. With all the advances we’ve had in medical care, our infant and maternal mortality rates have plummeted, thankfully.

You may be surprised to know, however, that many of those medical advances are things routinely used by Certified Professional Midwives too. CPMs generally use most, if not all, of the same pre-natal screening tests. We monitor the babies during pregnancy and throughout labor and delivery. We are licensed to administer some drugs, IVs, and do sutures, and we have oxygen available if either the mother, baby, or dad need it.

With C-section rates hovering around 32% in the US (and even as high as 60% in some areas of the country!), it’s not surprising that so many women are choosing home births these days. For a low-risk mother with a pregnancy with no complications, home birth, or birthing in a birth center, can be an excellent choice.

Denise Midstokke, Licensed and Certified Professional Midwife, has been a midwife for more than 30 years. Pend Oreille Midwifery Services and Birth Center is located at 723 Pine Street, Sandpoint. (208) 263-0776

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