Home birthing experts argue that giving birth at home is just as safe as being in a hospital for women in low-risk categories. That may be close to the truth, but only if nothing goes wrong. And the problem is that when it comes to giving birth, you never, ever know what might go wrong. Fit, healthy young women can still unexpectedly have horrible, traumatic births. I should know, because I had one with my first son. The Federal Government announced yesterday that professional indemnity insurance would not cover midwives who help women give birth at home. They're signaling that home births are outside acceptable birthing practices and thus midwives who attend home births are basically on their own. But this will not outlaw home births.
It will just drive them more underground, where women are further away than ever from the medical treatment they or their babies might need in an emergency. In fact, even supporters of home births say the moves will lead to a rise in so-called free births, where women are assisted only by a doula, or birthing assistant, who is not trained to resuscitate babies or mothers. For this reason, further steps need to be taken to make home births illegal. It's all very well for a mother to want an earth-loving, feel-good experience while giving birth, but she shouldn't put her child's life at risk. Surely the announcement by Health Minister Nicola Roxon means it's time for the home birthing movement to consider the safety of the children rather than just the needs of the mother? Sure, there are only 700 or so home births in Australia each year, but I think that's 700 too many. The issue is gaining the sort of attention the home birth advocates wouldn't want. In an Australian first, the South Australian Coroner decided last week to investigate the death of little Tate Spencer-Koch, who was stillborn in 2007. Tate was born at home, assisted by a midwife. She became stuck by her shoulders for 20 minutes in the birth canal. She was deprived...
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