One of the first and most important decisions expectant couples face is where they will deliver their baby. While for many it's more of an issue of which hospital they prefer or with which their doctor is affiliated, for others, it's whether they'd prefer a natural home birth with the assistance of a midwife, and if that option is safe for mother and baby.
Dr. Jay DiLeo, BabyZone's expert OB-GYN, father of eight, and author of The Anxious Parent's Guide to Pregnancy discourages couples from opting for a home birth, stating that while home birthing after a normal pregnancy is relatively safe, on an individual basis, the statistics aren't reassuring if you're that one person out of hundreds or thousands who has complications.
James Henderson, a lawyer, home-birthing father, and president of the Massachusetts Friends of Midwives, challenges Dr. DiLeo's position and believes home birthing after a normal pregnancy is as safe as if not safer than laboring and delivering in a hospital setting.
The editors and staff of BabyZone are objective parties on the issue and present this debate as a source for a higher level of information on a controversial subject from two qualified experts who can clearly communicate the facts to better help you make the best choice for you and your family.
Opening Letter to Dr. DiLeo from Jim Henderson, Esq.
As president of Massachusetts Friends of Midwives, I read with interest the passage in your new book,The Anxious Parent's Guide to Pregnancy, on home birth. If I read it correctly, you mean to say that home birth is unsafe, under any circumstance, and that somehow those of us who have chosen a home birth and who support home birth (as well as all other births attended by midwives and doctors who practice according to the Midwives Model of Care) have acted with great irresponsibility. You make it rather clear that the consideration of having a home birth should be met with great anxiety and fear, and that all "anxious" parents should run to the comparatively safe confines of a hospital to birth their children. All this without a single citation or other form of support for your statements.
I hereby challenge you to provide a single, objective, scientific study that shows, in the case of a healthy mother experiencing a healthy pregnancy, that a planned, midwife-attended (or OB-attended) home birth is less safe than a birth in a hospital. In making this challenge, I am prepared to provide a bibliography full of studies, statements, and public policies that indicate that the choice to birth at home can, contrary to your proclamation, be a safe and responsible one for those families who make that choice. Likewise, I will invite my colleagues from around the country to share with you their personal experiences as to what led them to choose a home birth (or even not to make that choice), so that you may better understand that the choice is one full of thought, care, and consideration, not ignorance or stupidity.
If you cannot provide scientific support for your statements, I believe the only ethical response for you is to make a public statement on the BabyZone.com website (and in any later editions of your book) regarding home birth that is scientifically supported and indicated.
Finally, I invite you to attend this year's conference of the Midwives Alliance of North America, which will be held the last weekend of October just outside Boston, so that you may better understand the basis of midwife-attended birth, which, in many circumstances all around the country and the world, happens outside of the hospital.
I look forward to your response.
James Henderson, Esq. President, Massachusetts Friends of Midwives