Actually, Birth Never Needed to be in the Hospital

Evaluating birth choices while pregnant in the time of COVID-19.

Take a deep breath.

If you read that headline and bristled, let me clarify this before I even begin:  For people who are high-risk, ill, or who personally feel safest in a hospital setting, then the hospital IS the absolute best place to have your baby. 

But for healthy, low-risk people, I’ll say again: 

Birth doesn’t – and never did – need to be in the hospital.

Thanks to COVID-19, people are rushing in droves to explore out-of-hospital options.  Some common concerns we have heard repeatedly from people planning hospital births:

  • A pregnant woman in labor at babymoon birth center leans on the edge of the tub during a contraction.
    Concern that they will no longer be able to bring a doula to their birth
  • Concern that they will no longer be able to bring their partner to their birth
  • Concern that their partner can be present for the birth, but not allowed in the recovery room afterward
  • Concern that if a partner is allowed in the hospital, they won’t be able to return if they leave the building for any reason
  • Concern that they will be exposed to viruses or illnesses and become sick while in the hospital
  • Concern that they will be separated from their baby if they are showing COVID-19 symptoms or test positive
  • Concern that they will be subjected to mandatory epidural anesthesia, Cesarean surgery, or other unnecessary interventions

News outlets report on this current trend toward out-of-hospital birth as if pregnant people are trading one risk for another. 

And I get it.  I know that: 

PREGNANT IN A PANDEMIC: “I STARTED TO THINK THAT MAYBE I SHOULD JUST GIVE BIRTH IN MY BATHTUB”

is a far more compelling headline than: 

MORE PEOPLE CHOOSING BIRTH CENTERS – AN OPTIMAL AND TOTALLY SAFE PLACE TO HAVE A BABY. 

But the reality is that people aren’t trading one risk for another. There is less risk in birthing at a licensed and accredited birth center. And that’s true all the time, not just during a global pandemic. Accredited birth centers repeatedly and consistently demonstrate improved outcomes for moms and babies – outcomes that translate across race and socioeconomic status.

There is less risk in birthing at a licensed and accredited birth center. And that’s true all the time, not just during a global pandemic.

Do we like that fear is driving people to consider birth options outside of the hospital? No. It’s sad that fear has to be any kind of driving factor for pregnant people. But do we like that something, ANYTHING is driving people to consider birth options outside of the hospital? Absolutely.

In the (hopefully near) future, social distancing guidelines will be relaxed. We will return to grocery stores and birthday parties and sporting events and begin to find our new normal. And we hope that a part of that new normal is a paradigm shift in the way we view birth. We hope that new normal includes a greater appreciation for the incredible work doctors and nurses do caring for sick people in the hospital.

And we also hope that more people will begin to realize that pregnancy isn’t a sickness.

And that birth never needed to be in a hospital.

Diana Petersen M.Ed., LCCE

Director of Education, Babymoon Inn

Diana Petersen received her journalism degree at the University of Arizona and her Master’s degree in education at Northern Arizona University.  She is a DONA-certified doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator at Babymoon Inn, an accredited birth center and full-scope midwifery practice in Phoenix, Arizona.

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