When pregnant with our first child, I went to my GP to arrange for antenatal care and talk about the birth. Fortunately I had spent 3 months or so avidly reading up about our options. “I would like a home birth” I explained “I see, she said “so I’ll book you in for Hinchingbrook then “This was a hospital a little further away than the local Addenbrookes. “No” I said hesitantly, rather startled, “I’d like a home birth” Again she “failed” to hear me. Once I had repeated myself three times, she smiled and said how important hospitals were and how she would have died if she had not had her children in a hospital setting.
As a result of the general expectation of GPs that women will deliver in hospital home births are down from 33.3% in 1956 to 2.3% according to most recent statistics; consequently the Caesarian rate is up from 2.3% in 1956 to 22.7%; Instrumental deliveries have also more than doubled over the same period (NCT magazine “New Gen” Spring 2006 p12, www.birthchoiceuk.com) Higher rates of hospital birth would not be a problem if they really were safer (which is not necessarily so) and also crucially if women were making a genuinely free, well informed choice about the matter. This is often also not the case.
I came away from the doctor that day rather shaken, not because the GP had convinced me of the safety of the hospital environment but because I felt so unheard and powerless. This is a very common experience for pregnant women. The Midwife Beverley Beech was so irritated by the number of women who asked her “Am I allowed?” when asking about the expected birth of their child that she used the question as the title of her book for expectant mothers and covered the dust jacket with the word “Yes!” (“Am I allowed?” Beverley A Lawrence Beech published by The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services www.aims.org.uk)