I'm warning everyone that this is really long lol. I am a woman of color who is debating whether or not I should try a home birth when I decide to try for another child or if I should find a way to advocate for women of color and low-income women to have more control over their birth experience in the hospital. I was treated so poorly at the hospital where I gave birth that it has inspired me to do something about it so other women don't have to experience what I did. I am thankful that my LO was born healthy without any complications, but I felt so degraded by the hospital staff. The nurses and doctors who helped in my labor and delivery were extremely dismissive, unresponsive, and down right rude. I felt humiliated when I left. I'm not one to blame everything on racism, but I am convinced that my poor treatment was a result of my ethnicity.
I've noticed that most of the stories, debates, information on home birth focus on white, middle-class, and older women. These are typically women who are in the best position to advocate for themselves, be treated by more experienced health care professionals, and to be treated with more respect (even though that is not always the case) than women of color or low-income women.
I'm really encouraged by reading the stories about positive home birth experiences and how empowering and calming it can be for a woman to labor in the comfort of her own home surrounded by a midwife that she personally selected and to be in the presence of friends and family. Many low-income women have little choice in an Ob-gyn or CNM. A lot of times that have to go to a "clinic" where they meet with whatever doctor who is available that day, and often it is a resident who has very little experience. Then, you go to the hospital and whoever happens to be on call that day delivers your baby. These women are often robbed of the ability to form a relationship with a health care professional to feel more comfortable during labor. They also may be at a disadvantage when it comes to advocating for what they want since they may be stereotyped by hospital staff.
Although I think home birth can be really positive, I've read a TON of blogs where they talk about how horrible and irresponsible it is to have a home birth because of all the risks involved. Reading those blogs has terrified me.
So, my questions are: How safe is home birth? If more women of color or low-income women were able to have home birth, would that helped to decrease the negative mother and infant health outcomes faced by women of color? I understand that there are many serious and potentially life-threatening risks with home birth, but what I want to know is it any safer for poor women/women of color to have a baby in a hospital where they might be disrespected, treated by inexperienced Ob-gyns, and not given the highest quality of care than to have a home birth?
Thanks for reading!
I am so sorry for your poor experience and the disrespect and mistreatment you endured. You are not alone. There are many women who feel the need to improve birth for women regardless if the birth happens inside or outside of hospitals.
You need to read about the amazing work of black midwife, Jennie Joseph and her tremendous safe track record: http://jenniejoseph.com/.
You cannot rely on blogs to verify or deny the safety of home birth. You have to go by peer-reviewed medical studies. I encourage you to view these studies (available on the More Information and Resources tab at www.alabamabirthcoalition.org):
One thing to remember is that the riskiest home births are those with no trained attendant present. It is important to have a trained midwife present to address any rare complications that could occur by providing life saving first response and appropriate transfer to obstetric care. There are links to information about the training, professional organizations, and and core competencies of midwives on that More Information and Resources tab: http://www.alabamabirthcoalition.org/more-information-and-resources/.
I encourage you to become involved with the International Center For Traditional Childbearing--http://www.ictcmidwives.org/. The International Center for Traditional Childbearing, Inc. (ICTC) is a non-profit African American centered organization located in Portland, Oregon.
You may also find the following organizations helpful:
I've just read your post and felt really prompted to reply as even though I'm from the UK, there are so many women having unsatifsfactory experiences in hospitals here too and it is so disheartening to hear how this goes on in other parts of the world.
Homebirth can be a wonderful experience and some of the points you made are absolutely true, at home a women can feel more at ease in her own surroundings enabling the release of positive birth hormones such as oxytocin to be undisturbed, often leading to a quicker, calmer labour and birth. When a labouring mother feels, threatened or disturbed as many do as they enter an unfamiliar environment (such as a hospital), adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone!) is released which counteracts the release of oxytocin, which can slow down labour and often leads to interventions and/or complications.
However, as with any birth setting a homebirth is not risk free and I agree with the previous post that it is extremely important to research this option thoroughly before making a decision. The articles from the previous reply are a great start and I would also highly recommend www.homebirth.org.uk as a great resource of information.
Another recent research study that may be of interest can be found on http://www.homebirthkits.com/blogs/news/6660820-home-births-may-be-safer-than-hospital-births
I really hope that with your next birth you receive the support and care you deserve and that you are treated with the dignity and respect every woman should receive, regardless of their ethnic background or income.
All the best
Well, I don't think I would consider hospital births particularly safe for women of color. A study came out over the summer that found that black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. I think that the kind of disrespect and lack of care that you experienced at the hospital is responsible for some of that appalling disparity (source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/03/us-more-minority-women-die-in-childbirth-idUSBRE8721B220120803)
As to home birth, I figure it's as safe for a woman of color as for a white woman. In my opinion, the skill of your birth attendant and the trust you feel you can place in him/her is as important, all other things being equal, as where you give birth. If you are having a low-risk pregnancy, many studies show that homebirth is as safe as hospital.
I'm a bit biased--not only did I have both of my babies at home, but I also grew up in a community where home birth was very normal. I knew probably fifty kids, growing up, who were born either at home or in a free-standing birth center. No one had any birth trauma that I'm aware of, and this was in a state where midwives couldn't be licensed and were delivering babies in my community illegally and with less training than they would have in a state where midwifery was legal and accepted.
I wrote a bit more about the safety of homebirth in a blog post here: http://cinnamonandsassafras.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/homebirth-faq/
Whatever you decide for your next birth, I hope that you are able to find someone to attend it who will support you and treat you like a woman deserving of dignity.
Mama to Silas Anansi, born 9/9/10 and Petra Eadaion, born 10/1/12.
I am a homebirth midwife who has been happy to serve women of color who range from low-income to upper middle class. I have not found any difference in outcomes for the low-income women because they were very committed to having a healthy pregnancy and safe birth and did everything possible to achieve that. A healthy diet is oftentimes your best bet for lowering your risk factor and it is possible to have a healthy diet even if you are low-income as many nutrient rich foods are inexpensive.
I have been able to take care of women who have medicaid and I definitely believe that in most cases the care that they receive during pregnancy and birth exceeds what they would expect through the medical model. That is not to say that there are not excellent providers in the medical world who serve low-income women, but they tend to be overworked and pressed for time. My low-income clients receive the same care and attention as every other client in my practice.
The women who came to my care for the reasons you outline in your post have related to me that their homebirth was very empowering for them. In turn, I found them to be inspiring in their dedication to the birth option that they feel best suited both them and their families. You might enjoy reading Patrice A. London's book, Empowered to Give Birth Naturally. It is available on Amazon.
Best wishes to you as you make this decision.
Bettie Sheets CPM
Full of Grace Birth Services
This is something I think about a lot. I had a hospital birth while married and then a home birth also while married and middle class. I divorced and moved into low income and have had medicaid and can not believe the difference in medical care.
I have recently attended a meeting of women in the area made up of doula's and midwives and other birth professionals and women who are in support of better births and brought this up. There was a young mother there who had a terrible story and it made me think more deeply about this exact topic.
I am glad you are sharing and looking into this.
A few years ago, I was looking at state neonatal death rate statistics, and learned that being born in a hospital in Mississippi to a low-income mother of color with little prenatal care is far more dangerous for the baby than the average homebirth is. I wish that some of the doctors who go on and on about the dangers of homebirth would instead go and do something useful and good there.
Under Obamacare, it is going to be easier to open birth centers and pay midwives under Medicaid. That might be a good direction to take your advocacy.
"So, my questions are: How safe is home birth? If more women of color or low-income women were able to have home birth, would that helped to decrease the negative mother and infant health outcomes faced by women of color? I understand that there are many serious and potentially life-threatening risks with home birth, but what I want to know is it any safer for poor women/women of color to have a baby in a hospital where they might be disrespected, treated by inexperienced Ob-gyns, and not given the highest quality of care than to have a home birth?"
I believe that the safety of a home birth is directly proportional to the skill of the health care provider and the risk status of the woman giving birth.
However, for any home birth one must recognize that they are in a resource poor environment (the home) and that certain events (severe PPH, AFE, uterine rupture, etc., etc.) are either not survivable at a home birth or chances of survival are substantially reduced.
"...safer for poor women/women of color to have a baby in a hospital where they might be disrespected, treated by inexperienced Ob-gyns, and not given the highest quality of care than to have a home birth?"
Also, don't forget that abuses can happen in the home as well -- google power birthing for example (incredibly painful and damaging manual dilation of the cervix -- a number of women have complained of their midwives using this technique without their consent).
I support homebirth that meets the qualifications set forth in the AAP's 2013 policy on homebirth.
you should become a doctor or something !
I can just about promise you that there are patients at your hospital who would credibly claim to have received bad treatment and poor care because of irrational prejudices from the staff, or because of institutional structures that make assumptions out of fit with their lives. There always are. You don't improve anything for anyone by noting that the problems you have aren't the same as other problems, far away.
I was just really surprised that she was treated like that, it's horrible
in Australia at our public hospital no one would treat her like that
and she sounds very intelligent
maybe over where you are you don't have nice public hospitals and they are all private ?
I have a number of African, Indian and aboriginal friends who are doctors and they are like her, highly intelligent and highly respected.
StudentDr., let's tie it back to what there is here:
The OP describes an experience of OB care that's pretty common to women in the United States, particularly women on Medicaid (the government-funded health care option for low-income women): Their prenatal care is handled "in clinic" and they see a different doctor or midwife every time, often (especially if low-income) a resident rather then a full-fledged doctor. Residents cycle in and out of clinic service much faster then women go through pregnancies. Some residents are genuinely interested in OB care, and do excellent work, others are just checking off this requirement and really don't give a darn. Residents are prone to suddenly losing interest in their current work when longer term job offers come through at the end of the academic year, or to not having all that much interest in the first place. Quality of care and quality of charting varies. Different doctors with different opinions give different answers to the same women when she asks the same questions. Doctor A may tell a patient that *of course* the hospital supports VBAC, and natural birth is absolutely the best option for her and her baby; next month, Doctor B may opine that she's a *horrible* candidate for VBAC, and it's very dangerous anyway; the decision about whether or not the woman gets a trial of labor will, in practice, be made by Doctor C, who sees her at 37 weeks, or by whatever doctor (D? Q?) happens to be on service when she actually goes into labor. Being really intelligent has no impact. I've seen my medical records, and they include notes that mention how personable and engaging I am, and how great an understanding I have of my condition, my baby's condition, and the current state of the relevant medical research. I cannot tell that these notes made any impression at all on the next doctor down the line.
This kind of thing happens, I am sure, even in Australia. It's not any one person's act of negligence or cruelty (although that does sometimes comes into play). It's just that when resources are limited (as they always are) and need is great, some people get short shrift. For any hospital, anywhere in the world, there is some population that is badly served by that hospital. That population is usually low-income, and usually some form of minority. The presence of doctors of from a variety of races and cultures, while a wonderful thing in itself, is not a guarantee of high quality or culturally sensitive care to every patient.
In general, I'm in favor of hospital care (as opposed to home care) for pregnancy and birth, because I believe that it's safer. I understand, however, that some women don't feel safe or comfortable in hospitals, and I understand some of the reasons why.
the one I was at was extremely friendly, the midwives and nurses were awesome .
we don't have obs and gyne as a requirement. residents take it because they are interested in it
students also see the patients , but they then present thepatient to a consultant
patients are seen by a multidisciplinary team which includes consultants, midwives, etc
and the patients are from all walks of life. of course the rich people go to private hospital. but if they have complications the rich people also come to this public hospital. I was even a patient at the hospital and I had no complaints. we have a very multicultural group of health care workers of high standards including friendliness.
the private hospitals look nice, but the consultants usually work both in public and private. and the private hospitals are very expensive. something like $1,400 per day.
I am coming to realise that it must be by expensive for people in america
OP- I reccomend going to the local library or ordering some books online on homebirth.
I used to have a list- but no longer do...
Anything by ina may gaskin
there are quite a few books on homebirth.
My favorite birth book is Birthing From Within- which is not a homebirth book but just a very good book to read.
Again, thank you everyone for the positive input. I am very serious about improving the prenatal care, labor and delivery, and postpartum care for ALL women, but especially low-income women and people of color. I have even thought about becoming a certified nurse-midwife so that I can be the one who can start the change, but I don't really care to go to school for that long lol. I do understand that there are many risks to home birth, but something has got to change with how hospitals treat their patients.
my friend from Zimbabwe is going back home in her holidays to help out at the hospital. here parents are both nurses. I'm pretty sure they had formed a group that was going back.
also over here (maybe over thereto ? ) we have groups of doctors from private hospitals (especially hollywood - inaustralia) who go to places in need every so often and help out. ( eg they went to some remots place, I forget where exactly and took a whole pile of cervical cancer vaccines to vaccinate all the girls, I think another team is going to Africa somewhere to help the young girls with fistulas from childbirth) they probably wouldn't go to America but they may be able to help you out with contacts, how to organise things and get things.
oh someof these expeditions led by consultants and others are also advertised to medical students as electives, so if you get something up and running you might like I get them involved, this is key because they will likely return when they are qualified, and they have access to finances and hospital resources and also other contacts)
and it is common practice to make and sell scrub hats to help raise money. over here they sell for $5 to $10 . and people like helping out buying them and getting a cool scrub hat. I have a few and I buy them for my friends as presents. where I work they are just left in the staff room with an honesty jar, or at the front counter.
You cannot rely on blogs to verify or deny the safety of home birth. You have to go by peer-reviewed medical studies. I encourage you to view these studies (available on the More Information and Resources tab at www.alabamabirthcoalition.org):
I agree with the need to look at peer-reviewed studies. I'd add to be careful when looking at data from another country. The midwives there may be trained differently (homebirth midwives in the UK and Canada have a similar level of training to American CNMs, not CPMs).
I wanted to reply to this, even though the original post is from quiet some time ago. However OP I am encouraged by your voice and want to encourage you to use it more. I live between worlds as a woman of color who looks white and married into a "white" last name. So for all intents and purposes to the system I am white. HOWEVER my sisters kept their maiden name and have a darker skin than I (genetics is funny). I noticed a significant differnce it the way my own perinatal care was managed to how my sisters care was managed (one of them had care with the same practice of providers.)
I believe the number one way for helping to change disparencies is to speak about it more. I believe culturally women of color are taught to respect the person of power in systems relationships (ie: their parents, Drs, teachers, ect.) and are significantly unlikely to speak up for their own care. Resigning themselves to what they get. I think of my own father who was in the hospital this past summer for major surgery. When he told the Dr he didn't feel right they dismissed his requests for tests/followup. Later we learned the surgery went seriously wrong. It took me talking with the Dr's to take his claims seriously!
I do believe there are ways to help the community without investing in education to be a professional. It is equally helpful for women to hear stories of what it is like to have empowering births with providers who honor and value the mothers/families. One way to do this is to start a birth circle, postpartum support circle or red tent in your community, where you can begin to look at how the women of your own community are treated and that ways you can work together to change the kind of care you are willing to accept.
This journey can be incredibly isolating for mothers in general, but especially women of color who meet a variety of barriers to care.
ETA: May birth professionals like CPM's and Doulas believe in offering support to women of color/low income/ otherwise underserved populations at deeply reduced fees/arrangements. I believe that if a woman wants a more holistic model of care she should have access to that care and know many others who feel the same. From my research I believe a homebirth can be sometimes a safer alternative to hospital births, but do believe it is dependent on many factors (no one size fits all here)... the main factor being diet, which can be a barrier to care for many low income families.
Thank you so much for voicing this and allowing us to support you here. Please PM me if you would like to talk more.
WOHMama to DD (July 2008) and DS (May 2013); wife to DH .
Live your life, like your life depends on it.
One of the provisions of the health care reform law requires all state Medicaid plans to pay services provided by freestanding birth centers and the midwives who practice in freestanding birth centers, so long as the birth center and midwife are licensed in that state, the state Medicaid plan must offer women who are enrolled in Medicaid the option of giving birth in a birth center with a midwife. This law is beginning to be implemented in each of the states, so please send me a private message if anyone experiences any problems getting Medicaid in her state to provide this option. Check out information about this law at the American Association of Birth Centers website at www.birthcenters.org
Also, the national midwife organizations MANA, ICTC, NACPM, NARM, and Citizens for Midwifery (who together are calling themselves the MAMA Campaign or Midwives and Mothers in Action), have a bill that will be re-introduced in this new Congressional session that will also require all state Medicaid plans to pay for home birth with licensed Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs). See their website at http://www.mamacampaign.org/
We need to all support this bill, which will extend the same option of home birth and the woman-centered model of maternity care offered by midwives as an alternative to hospital birth to low income women.
Take action for women's health, for the health of all women, become an activist for equal access to home birth, birth centers, and midwives for all women.
OP, I don't think that you should feel obligated to subject yourself to another hospital birth in the interest of improving care for other women. If anything, perhaps you could meet with the charge nurse and the head of OB at the hospital where you delivered and tell them about your experience.
Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds 10yo dd 8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds
I'm so sorry with your experiences with the medical model of care. :(
As a mother of color *and* low-income, I can say that it's so very important to know plenty of information and arm yourself with resources against all the odds stacked against our demographic. I had a hospital birth with paid insurance with my first-born and it was a great experience. I had a doula, a midwife, and a great confidence I got from research and information. I am now on state medical insurance and planning a home birth with midwives and a doula. So, while I know I have greater chances of medical issues due to my race, I am very low-risk and healthy in other persepectives. So, I know it can be done but it starts with confidence within yourself and arming yourself with information and positive support to achieve what many circumstances are set against.
Good luck. :)
Laotian girl, who went from heavy partying to peaceful parenting, to 'Humnoy' (3/13/2011) and 'Lanoi' (2/05/2013)
Mama behind the Breastfeeding Toddler Positions meme and blogging about non-mainstream ideas of parenting at TheLaotianCommotion.com
I can't comment on being a woman of color thing, but I do think the clinics for low income women are horrible! In my last pregnancy, I was on medi-cal and went to the clinic for most of my pregnancy. They just expect you to be ignorant and stupid. I eventually switched to a private doctor and even though I still was on medi-cal, nothing had changed there, the treatment I received was very different. At the hospital too my treatment was fine, very different than what I experienced at the clinic. I suppose if the women going to the clinics stood up for themselves and informed choices, maybe, eventually, it would improve. But I would not subject myself to that again. If women on medi-cal were to only use the other options, never choosing the clinic, that might eventually make a difference too. And that would be less traumatic.
i can imagine if they treated me, a 30 year old married white woman, who was raised middle class even if I'm now low income, like I am ignorant and stupid I bet the way they treat women of color is much worse...
mama to DS born 9/7/05, DD born 8/20/07, DS born 9/4/10 and DS born 11/26/13
Loving our chaotic, crunchy, homeschooling life!
This doesn't address the homebirth aspect per se, but I recently heard of a program in my city that targets low-income women (and in this city, that often means minority women). It's run out of a community health clinic to gather groups of women of similar gestational age as a support network for each other. It's run by two CNMs and aims to give them the information they probably aren't getting from their (as mentioned above) lackluster regular prenatal appointments and to give them space to talk and discuss. I know a lot of people are distrustful of CNMs too, but i have to think this is better than what they were getting before.
Here's the podcast link if you're interested: http://www.radiomilwaukee.org/initiatives/make-difference/centeringpregnancy-sixteenth-street-community-health-centermake-differen
Where that tied in for me in your post is the simple idea that knowledge is power. If more and more women of color can feel confident in their own knowledge and supported by their own community network rather than relying on what is given to them by the resident du jour, then perhaps the tide will shift. (Yes, rose-colored glasses perhaps...) You mentioned that one of the things upper-class women can do more easily is advocate for themselves. We can't fix some of those other things, but we can fix that perhaps. And honestly? The homebirth midwives in our area are already quite overworked, we need more of them and we need them in those communities. But a good start would be to plant good information, no matter where the birth takes place.
And good for you. :) It kind of makes me wonder how our local free standing birth center could reach out to a broader group of people...
WOHM to Leo (4/08) and enjoying the journey with DH
Announcing the arrival of Clara in August 2013!