I’ve done a lot of reading the last few days in regards to HBACs and studies conducted which has helped me greatly in writing this post.
I don’t want to sound like an extreme anti HBAC protester, but the facts and the truths are out there when you look for them. Unfortunately most women and blinded by their desire for a natural home birth that they don’t read enough into it and find out all of the facts.
If you are considering a HBAC then please read all of this post, follow the links and read those as well, then you can at least make an informed decision on what you want to do. It’s also worth remembering that with a HBAC you are three times more likely to lose your child than you are with a hospital VBAC.
HBAC Vs Hospital VBAC
Most of the HBAC advocates and site will often tell you that a HBAC birth is just as safe as a hospital birth. They will also tell you that you are less likely to suffer complications with a HBAC than you are in hospital.
Whilst it may be true that you will probably suffer less complications (its a known fact that women left to their own devices in a comfortable environment will labour easier than those being interferred with), you can also labour in a hospital with a Doula and no intervention (unless there are problems that may affect the life of your child or yourself).
It is NOT true that home birth is as safe as a hospital environment, and that’s not just in regards to HBAC either.
You may have been told that plenty of studies have been performed to show that home birth is as safe as a hospital birth. However were you told which country these studies were performed in? You can’t use facts unless they apply to your country. Bear in mind the UK and the USA have different training requirements for maternity staff and health care systems in place that other countries do not have. You can’t compare these studies when you take into account the fantastic healthcare system we are fortunate enough to have access to.
In face there have been studies on home birth in the USA, and all of them show that with a home birth the risk of ending up with the death of a baby is tripled when compared with a hospital birth.
The latest study (from the Midwives Alliance of North America) was conducted in 2014 (yes it really is a recent study) has been brilliantly surmised in an article on babymed which was written to debunk a claim that homebirth was safer than a hospital birth. Have a read of it here: http://www.babymed.com/blogs/danielle-repp/press-release-wrongfully-claims-home-birth-safe
To quote from the article:
“A baby is 3 to 6 times more likely to die at a home birth than in a hospital”
How can anyone even consider a HBAC when you take this into account? This is not about a womans right to labour in her own environment, this is about the right of your unborn child! The right that child has to be born alive!
The Skeptical OB also sums it up wonderfully in her article below:
To quote from the Skeptical OB:
“To summarize, the MANA statistics show that homebirth as practiced in the US has a death rate 450% higher than hospital birth”
Another article that I reccomend reading from the Skeptical OB is ‘Another HBAC, Another Rupture, Another Baby Dies’
“How many dead babies is it going to take before homebirth advocates realize that they have absolutely no idea what they are doing, and that precious babies are dying preventable deaths as a result of their arrogance and ignorance?”
There are so many articles out there that the advocates don’t want you to read. If you have time (and I urge you please make time ) please read the following articles/stories:
Homebirths linked to a higher rate of infant deaths: http://www.livescience.com/43050-home-births-newborn-death.html
Home birth after Caesarean: http://www.babymed.com/blogs/danielle-repp/hbac-home-birth-after-cesarean
Critique of homebirth: https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/a-critique-of-the-leading-study-of-american-homebirth/
Apgars in relation to birth setting: http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(13)00641-8/abstract
Perinatal outcome in relation to homebirth: http://www.ajog.org/article/s0002-9378(13)00630-3/fulltext
NB: In regards to the studies used they were all based on planned Home births with a midwife present. Accidental home births were not included as this would have swayed the data.
But My Midwife Assured me that she/he carries everything they need to cope with an emergency…
I’ve seen this in a lot of HBAC forums, women are being misled in regards to the safety of their labour.
Yes a midwife will carry certain items which will help with some complications that may arise but they are not equipped for all eventualities.
Yes a midwife will call for transfer to hospital in an emergency – but often this can be time consuming and if you suffer a rupture or haemorrhage then you need to be in theatre within 18 minutes to save the life of your child. Bear in mind it will take at least 5 – 10 minutes to get you out of the door and into some form of transport, then take into account journey time, getting out at the other end and the other factors that come into play when transferring. Unfortunately even for those living close to a hospital the transfer time is too long to save the life of the baby in a lot of cases.
What happens if your baby is born with breathing difficulties? Can your midwife ventilate and intubate your baby? Unfortunately they can’t do this, and a transfer is required. Again often transfers for this complication are not fast enough and you risk the life of your child or serious brain damage due to lack of oxygen.
There are hundreds of situations that can occur, and whilst your midwife is prepped for some he/she is not prepped for all of them.
Many Thanks to ‘Doula Dani’ for the following lists and exert that I took from her blog.
“Home birth midwives carry with them certain items to use in case of an emergency – b/c no matter how low risk a mom might be, emergencies can and do happen in childbirth and as such, they need to be prepared. I’ve heard or read many, many times from mothers/fathers/couples that have chosen home birth (or freestanding birth center) that “their midwife carries with them all the necessary equipment in case an emergency arises.” So I want to present a clear cut list for each setting of the equipment available in case of an emergency.
There is a slew of equipment needed and provided in both situations that I am not going to get into – such as gauze pads, chux pads, sterile gloves, etc. What I’m focusing on is the equipment used either to detect issues or for life saving measures.”
Here’s what a (typical) certified home birth midwife will bring with her to a home birth:
Fetoscope or Doppler (or both) – to detect the heart rate of the baby
One oxygen tank
Infant mask (used with oxygen tank)
Adult mask (used with oxygen tank)
Blood pressure cuff
Suturing items – to stitch tears for the mother
Thermometer – to check for fever for mother, which can indicate uterine infection
Lidocaine – to numb mom locally while she is being stitched up
Pitocin – in case of postpartum hemorrhage
Methergine – in case of postpartum hemorrhage
Bulb syringe – to clear airways of the baby, especially in case resuscitation is needed
IV equipment – if mom needs antibiotics in case of GBS or prolonged rupture of membranes
Pegnancy and labor records and charting, including blood type – in case of transfer, to ensure accuracy and increase speed
A midwife may or may not have an assistant with her
Midwife should be current in the following skills:
Neonatal Resuscitation (chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth)
Basic Life Support (some may have Advanced Life Support training)
“I would ask your midwife ahead of time to make sure she carries (at least) these above items and has (at least) those certifications. The items should be in good working order, drugs should not be expired and midwife should be very familiar with exactly how to use each of these items and medications. Be your own advocate! Don’t be afraid to ask questions ahead of time.
Now keep in mind, if the midwife is not certified she will not have access to things like Pitocin (or any medications), Oxygen, an IV, etc or any item that could get her in trouble with the law for practicing medicine without a license (at least, she will not have legal access to such items).
A Paramedic will have the knowledge, skill and certain equipment to be able to help in the case of an emergency. However, while a Paramedic can certainly provide life saving support, they should not be considered a fool proof back-up plan. Quoting a Paramedic: “We can do neonate intubations but we do them SO seldom that it’s not a skill all medics are up to par on. This goes for babies & pregnancy in general. In an emergency childbirth scenario where minutes can make the difference in life and death, NOTHING in an ambulance can save a baby; it can only be a very temporary bandaid while we drive as fast as we can to the closest hospital.”
In a non-emergent transfer, travel time or response time will likely not be an issue. However, being “5 minutes from the hospital” may not be close enough when minutes can make the difference between a perfectly healthy life and death or neurological damage or injury or blood loss resulting in a transfusion or hysterectomy. Regardless of the scenario, emergency or not, a home birth transfer will take much longer than 5 minutes to get a laboring woman in her home (or birth center) to a hospital, in the right hands at the hospital, admitted, monitored and ready for a doctor to deliver a baby.
All of the above listed home birth equipment and medications, plus…
Electronic Fetal Monitor (EFM) – this detects the baby’s heart rate and the contractions. EFM vs Doppler gives nurses a much clearer picture of the baby’s heart rate to make sure baby is getting all the oxygen baby needs. Heart rate variability is normal for the baby but it’s important to know when changes to the heart rate occur in relation to when contractions happen. A heart rate of 155 BPM might sound healthy and wonderful when checked every 10 minutes or so but with decels at the end of a contraction, it can be a serious sign of distress. The decels may be so slight that unless you are looking at a print out (the EFM strip), you would not know they are happening.
An endless supply of oxygen
Cytotec – for postpartum hemorrhage
Vacuum and/or forceps (though forceps are not common anymore) – if the baby’s health depends on immediate delivery, a vacuum can be used to help guide the baby through the birth canal while the mother pushes
Blood Bank – for postpartum hemorrhage requiring a blood transfusion
Operating Room and all personnel needed for an emergency c-section or for postpartum hemorrhage treatment/surgery (see Sara’s birth of her son – an emergency surgical repair saved Sara’s life after she suffered a cervical laceration; see Amber’s experience as a doulaand Becky’s birth of her second child – immediate emergency c-sections saved the lives of those two babies)
Ventilator – a machine that facilitates breathing (see Christine’s Birth Story of Baby Penelope and how a ventilator saved her daughter’s life when she was born)
Specialized diagnostic equipment and staff
A skilled team of nurses and doctors that are current in the following skills (these skills are frequently used either on the job or through hospital drills):
Advanced Life Support
Intubation (and obviously the equipment for such) – provides a much more effective way to oxygenate a person (of any age) compared to resuscitation
Also keep in mind, to be trained in Neonatal Resuscitation or Life Support every few years and practicing only on a dummy is very different than using those skills on-the-job in a true emergency, on a real mother or baby. In a hospital, you have other sets of eyes and hands to help, to shout direction or take over in case someone freezes or forgets under pressure, you have a back-up for your back-up for your back-up. They will be able to tend to baby AND mother at the same time, if needed.
From a nurse midwife student: “Not only is there a team full of certified, competent people, but in a hospital, they are running dystocia drills or practicing for other obstetric emergencies. These are people who have practiced working together, who have assigned roles, and in addition to all the drills, have seen their share of real emergencies. They not only have a pediatric and adult code teams, but depending on size and type of hospital, they may also have OB rapid response and code teams as well,as they do in my hospital. It’s a well oiled machine.”
Nurses will keep a watchful eye on mother/baby in the hospital not just during the immediate postpartum period but for the length of their stay, checking vitals and looking for signs of infection, breathing complications, arrhythmia, postpartum hemorrhage, seizure, undetected birth defects, etc.
It is true that an Operating Room may or may not be available immediately when an emergency c-section is needed. In some cases, a doctor can have a baby born via cesarean in less than 5 minutes, including travel time from the Labor and Delivery Room to the Operating Room. In other cases, it may take longer depending on the availability of the Operating Room, anesthesiologist and obstetrician. However, the added commute from a home or birth center will certainly not help facilitate a c-section any quicker – in addition to travel time, the hospital must do its due diligence to admit the mother and monitor the baby and mother before performing any emergency surgery. “
I stand by my opinion that HBACs carry a much greater risk than a VBAC in a hospital environment. There are so many factors that need to be taken into account.
Yes it is your body, and yes you should trust it. But you should also plan for any eventuality. I can not imagine the pain that a mother would go through from losing a child, and I wan’t to do as much as I can to prevent that from happening.
So please before you decide to go ahead with your HBAC, think about the risks, and take a moment to think about your unborn child and what would happen if you hit a serious complication. I’ve read so many heartbreaking stories in regards to women who have lost their babies via HBAC and VBAC in a birthing centre rather than a hospital.
Annas Story (will bring you to tears) She lost her precious baby due to Uterine Rupture: http://navelgazingmidwife.squarespace.com/navelgazing-midwife-blog/2014/4/7/annas-uterine-rupture-story.html
I know I can’t change the minds of some people in regards to HBAC, I’m just a mum afterall who had a failed VBAC and thanks her lucky stars every day that the outcome was positive. But if I can save just one life then that’s all that matters.
I also want to add that I don’t blame any of the mums who lost their babys through failed HBACS. They are innocent in a world of advocates brainwashing women that this practice is safe. I am 100% sure that if these mums knew all of the risks that they wouldn’t have gambled their childs life. It’s not something we do as mums. I blame the advocates and the fact that this has yet to be outlawed.
If you are a mum who has lost their baby – please don’t blame yourself, instead focus on educating other mums on the dangers of HBAC. Lets work together to save lives so that your precious angels can look down knowing they have done what they came here to do.