Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I spent all of last week in London promoting my book, which has the new title in the UK of Birth: A History. After 10 BBC interviews it was clear that many issues around birth are universal: Women grappling with pain relief, political fights surrounding who controls birth, and economic issues that ultimately decide where, when, how and with whom women deliver. But there are some differences between birth in America and birth in the UK. First, their maternal and neonatal mortality rates are better than ours. Their midwifery rates are higher than ours, and their health czar recently came out publicly to promote home birth, saying she recognized that decades of studies have consistently found home birth to be at least as safe as hospital births for low-risk women. And it's cheaper for the National Health Service, their universal health care system. The trouble is, there aren't enough midwives to facilitate home birth. But women have already picked up on the government's pitch. They like the idea. They're going into labor with the plan of staying at home. Sometimes a midwife gets there in time. Sometimes she doesn't.