Giving birth at home? Idealise it all you like, but it’s still a crazy choice

Nice is suggesting that for those who have already had one child, it is better to forget about hospital

 

Share

Weasel words from the Royal College of Midwives, frankly. Giving birth at home “may be safer than hospital”; women “usually have” better birth experience than in hospitals.

May? Usually? Can we all just remember what is being discussed here? The birth of a child. Not the removal of a splinter. And yet the Government’s health advisory body, Nice, is suggesting that for those who have already had one child, or whose pregnancy has been straightforward, it is better to forget about hospital and instead give birth in a midwifery-led unit (MLU) or to go for it on the living-room carpet. Doing it thus, suggests Nice, will mean less medical intervention (well, yes, obviously) and just as good an outcome for the baby. Everyone is happy. There are no stitches, and the overall cost to the NHS is a lot lot lower.

Could this pronouncement be possibly related to the fact that we are experiencing the highest birth rate for 40 years? I think it might be.

The Royal College of Midwives and the parenting charity NCT have, to my mind, been irresponsible in welcoming Nice’s findings. Get those pesky (often male) doctors out of the way! Giving birth is a natural event! They give birth in the fields in some countries, for goodness sake! Anyone who wants to be in stirrups, in a hospital, has been over medicalised, over-pampered, and is probably not a feminist to boot. This is the proper way to do it. It’s a policy which will encourage thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of women to give birth at home.

Except. We are talking about bringing a live human being safely into the world. Is there any moment in a parent’s life more fraught with anxiety and the possibility of life-changing tragedy? I have four children. Each was born safely at University College Hospital in London. Did I ever consider, for a moment, that I might give birth on the sofa at home?

Actually, yes. When pregnant with my third, I felt a vague (and wholly untypical) desire to be at one with the sisterhood. Maybe I hadn’t had enough folic acid that day. So I murmured to my GP that staying chez moi and crossing my fingers was perhaps a groovy idea. “Are you crazy?” she said to me. “What if something goes wrong? What if you can’t get to hospital in time? You’d never forgive yourself.”

This of course is the point. We all know someone who never stops banging on about how wonderful it was to give birth at home; how little Jonny played the recorder throughout, how Mum brought up hot pasta just afterwards and, hey, how even the family dog poked his nose in the door just as we got to the second stage, what larks. You don’t often hear about it when the ambulance had to be called, how an emergency bed had to be found halfway across town, how a Special Care Baby Unit had to be found at a different location, how everything very nearly went so horribly wrong. Or did go wrong.

Perhaps some people find it disagreeable to be in labour surrounded by bleeping machines. Or doctors. Well, you shy types, now you don’t have to. I gave birth to my youngest child at UCH’s Bloomsbury Birthing Centre, in a room supplied with a bed and a midwife. That was it. This is just the sort of “alongside unit”, approved of by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which are now becoming more familiar in hospitals. Once Lucien had turned up, the midwife brought in a plate of biscuits. It was very low-key, and very nice. Except if something had gone awry, I knew, and so did she, that there was a phalanx of world experts, operating theatres and bleeping machines one floor up. These are not normal domestic accessories, at least not when I last looked.

Labour is quite painful. Episiotemies are not my favourite beauty treatment. But, laydeez, this time it’s not all about you, or your “experience”, its really not. It’s also about a person who has zero choice about where they are going to embark on one of the most perilous journeys of their life. It seems utterly bonkers to me not to make that as safe as you possibly can.

Moral of Maria Miller’s tale

You have to laugh, a little. The disgraced former Culture Secretary Maria Miller, on seeing a production of A View From the Bridge at the Young Vic, comes off the naughty step to gush on Twitter about “British culture”. Cue instant barrage of jokes concerning the show’s director (Belgian), setting (New York), and of course playwright (the very American Arthur Miller). Some people suggested the gaffe might have been caused by the lack of a programme. “Leave her alone” tweeted one wag. “She thinks Arthur Miller is her dad.” If I were the hapless Miller, I would probably keep my cultural outpourings to myself, just for the moment.

Twitter: @rosiemillard

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 2 Teacher - Maternity cover

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 2 maternity cover, startin...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Upper KS2 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Young Syrian refugees gather around a small fire at the Minieh camp in Lebanon  

Cameron and Obama may want to ‘destroy’ Isis, but what will they do about the growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria?

Kate Allen
“You're running away!” Nick said to me the other night as I tried to leave the hospital  

In Sickness and in Health: ‘There’s nothing I want more than to have you at home, but you’re not well’

Rebecca Armstrong
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments