In support of home births

There have been a few news items recently on home births – and a national call for encouraging more women to consider giving birth at home. One article that caught my eye in the Guardian (read it here) by Rebecca Schiller flagged up a really important issue: that there’s too little information available to the public about the incredible benefits of home births. More women seem concerned about dangers and risks than the benefits.

It’s interesting how such a strong culture of the medicalisation of birth has hindered general knowledge about the benefits of natural birth, and natural, instinctive parenting. Sadly, more people focus on the details of an epidural, or the timings of different stages of labour, than on the experience of a baby during labour and birth, or the right for a woman to have choice, and to feel safe and comfortable. How many people know how a supported and comfortable woman is less likely to experience difficulties in labour? Or how important it is for babies to feel safe, to feel held, not coerced by intervention and unrealistic expectations, but listened to and responded to, cared for and loved, right through pregnancy, and beyond? Or that when babies do feel this, they are likely to thrive?

The RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists) is hoping for a culture where prevention is more common than intervention, with midwife-led care and home births being part of this. It makes me think about the way Babiesknow was described as offering preventative psychotherapy in the recent Times article by Liz Groskopp. The old adage, prevention is better than cure, still rings true, and that is what we are trying to do by teaching parents and expectant parents about what babies really know and need. Prevention can only begin working when there’s information, as well as support. So just as there’s a need for women and couples to be told more about the benefits of home birth, (whether or not they choose to give birth at home) it seems there’s a need for families to be informed about the true sensitivity of babies, and the importance of a baby’s experience and the way it shapes his or her entire life.

A gentle approach to babies from the beginning of life, through pregnancy, and birth, and in the delicate newborn period, is so important. Wouldn’t it be great if common knowledge included facts about babies’ sensitivity, their need to be seen, heard, loved, held and nurtured, and not made to feel wrong or naughty; and information about the impact that early relationships and experience have on brain and body development and future health and happiness? Giving women and families information and support to make informed choices and do what feels right to them as they bring their precious children into the world, and nurture them through infancy, is a wonderful aim.