News / USA

    Welcome Home, Baby

    After falling out of favor, home births are now on the rise in the United States

    Karen Kramer with daughter, Stella Grace, shortly after giving birth at home.
    Karen Kramer with daughter, Stella Grace, shortly after giving birth at home.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Mike Osborne

    The use of midwives to help with home childbirths is an ancient and honored tradition in many societies around the world.

    But in the United States, midwifery began to fall out of favor in the mid-19th century, as the number of medical doctors and hospitals grew. By 1935, 90 percent of all births in America were taking place in hospitals, attended by doctors. And by the 1950s, most American states had outlawed the practice of midwifery altogether.

    Today, though, the laws are changing, and midwives are making a slow but steady comeback.

    Doing it her way

    In Nashville, Tennessee, Karen Kramer is getting a checkup from her midwife.

    She plans to give birth in her own home, a rare choice in the United States. Kramer delivered her first two children in the more typical American way, in a hospital with a doctor attending, but she wasn't completely happy with either experience.

    During her last delivery, for example, nurses whisked her newborn away immediately and didn't return with him for three hours.  There were no complications, she says, the nurses were simply busy.

    "And the whole time I kept sitting there thinkin' 'I can't believe I just had our second child and I'm not with him, I can't hold him, I can't nurse him, I can't be with him' and that was really hard for me."

    Kramer also believes she suffered unnecessary pain because of what she considers to be the hospital's aversion to risk and legal liability. She wanted to get up and walk during labor to relieve the stress in her back, but she says the staff insisted she remain in bed.

    Karen Kramer works through labor pains shortly before giving birth at home.
    Karen Kramer works through labor pains shortly before giving birth at home.

    "When I walk in to give birth to my child this time," she says, "I don't want to be viewed as a liability."

    Home births

    Midwives have attended all four of Amy Hamiter's births.

    She says people are often shocked, sometimes even appalled, when they learn she's given birth at home, without a doctor present.

    "People have this notion that we're all alone and that I'm birthing out in the dirt or something," she says. "I don't think that they quite grasp that our midwife knows what she's doing. She's trained."

    Midwives have at least three years worth of training, according to Nurse Midwife Mary Anne Richardson. It can take that long to get licensed as a Certified Professional Midwife or CPM, even longer to become a nurse midwife.

    "They estimate a minimum of 1,350 clinical hours spent for the CPM to get that certification. So it's not something you can just go out and do, you know, fill out a piece of paper, pay your money and acquire a CPM certification," she says.

    Once certified, there's no shortage of work. Midwives attend more than 300,000 births in the U.S each year, in hospitals, clinics and homes. Only one percent of all deliveries take place outside a hospital setting.  On average, in-home births in America are growing by three percent per year.

    Increasing popularity

    Richardson - who only attends home births - says she's turning some new clients away.

    "My heart breaks because people call and I say, 'I'm sorry. We're full for January. I'm sorry we're full for February.' And there aren't enough midwives to handle the calls we're getting."

    Midwives have at least three years worth of training, according to Nurse Midwife Mary Anne Richardson.
    Midwives have at least three years worth of training, according to Nurse Midwife Mary Anne Richardson.

    Dr. Mavis Schorn is trying to change that. She directs the Nurse-Midwife training program at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University.

    "Midwifery was almost gone from this country before the 1960s," she says. "So it's really built significantly since then."

    Schorn says many Americans still view birth as a thing to be feared, seeing delivery as more of a medical complication than a natural process. She says that's why many mothers-to-be might feel more comfortable with the fetal monitors and other medical resources available in a hospital setting.  

    "There's still this thought that more technology is better and that if we hand ourselves over to technology and to the highest possible education that we can find that we're gonna have the best outcome. Well, that's not necessarily the case."

    Though some women who have unexpected complications during childbirth do end up going to the hospital, life-threatening emergencies are rare.  In spite of this, it's still illegal for midwives to attend births in 10 of the 50 American states.

    Debate continues

    Amy Hamiter hopes to be an even bigger part of the home birth revolution.

    She's now studying to become a nurse midwife and is something of an evangelist on the subject. She's even placed a video of her most recent delivery on the internet for others to see.

    "This is a natural process. This doesn't have to be a big medical event," she stresses. "Of course, there are times when intervention is needed and it does save lives, but in healthy pregnancy and healthy labors, the mom and baby are going to be just fine if they're left alone."

    Stella Grace is welcomed to the world shortly after being delivered at home.
    Stella Grace is welcomed to the world shortly after being delivered at home.

    But the debate goes on. The American College of Obstetricians refers to home births and midwives as "trendy" and "dangerous" and says the rate of fetal death is much greater in a home birth - a statistic disputed by Mavis Schorn. She points to studies which suggest that home births are just as safe as hospital deliveries.  

    Health professionals caution that a home birth is best suited to healthy mothers whose pregnancies have been uneventful and where complications are not expected.  

    Like with Karen Kramer who, at home with a midwife, delivered her newest child, Stella Grace.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.