Sunday, September 16, 2007

Homebirth is unnatural

No, not the location, of course. Until recently, most births did take place at home. However, though homebirth advocates are constantly blathering about "normal" and "unhindered" birth, almost everything that has led up to the actual birth is unnatural.

First, and most importantly, most women choosing homebirth are old, really old. Most have spent virtually their entire reproductive life supressing and otherwise regulating their fertility. In nature, women started getting pregnant almost immediately after menarche, and the average woman did not even live much beyond 35. We can confidently say that for all of human history, until approximately 50 years ago, women could not and did not postpone childbearing until the end of the reproductive years. Why is this unnatural manipulation of fertility (managing fertility purely for convenience) perfectly acceptable, but managing childbirth is supposedly wrong?

Second, we have a much better diet than most women throughout human history. Contrary to the importance placed on nutrition by most homebirth advocates, human beings did not cavort around food pyramids in nature. They ate what they could find or kill and most lived at a subsistence level. This improvement in diet and supplementation with prenatal vitamins or other supplements is reflected in the progressively increasing size of neonates. Controlling, supplementing or otherwise manipulating diet to control pregnancy outcome is unnatural. Why is that considered completely acceptable, indeed mandatory, by homebirth advocates, but controlling the timing or progress of labor to improve outcome is unacceptable?

Third, midwives in nature eagerly used whatever technology they had available to improve outcomes for babies and mothers. The use of herbs to control bleeding, for example, reflected the "scientific" investigations of midwives who had found that certain herbs encourage powerful unterine contractions. For ancient midwives, herbs were not "natural", they were technological. After all, human beings do not instinctively consume herbs containing ergot. The use of ergot containing preparations reflect the "research" of midwives, their diagnosis of a problem (hemorrhage) and the prescribing of a medication. If ancient midwives used whatever technology they could create, why is it unacceptable to use the far safer and more effective technologies of today?

Homebirth advocates today manage pregnancy in ways that are entirely unnatural, and they do so specifically for convenience and to improve outcomes. How is that any different than women using the safer, more convenient and more effective methods of modern obstetrics?


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