Is hating hospitals a reason to give birth at home?

Danni Minogue with newborn baby Ethan and husband Kris Smith

Why any right-minded person would watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy of their own free will defies comprehension. Ditto All Saints, House, Chicago Hope or any other medical drama ever made.

Not even the prospect of a young George Clooney was enough to entice me to tune in to ER.

No amount of implausibly beautiful actors and soap-sudded storylines can disguise the fact they all take place in hospitals. Yes, hospitals – those buildings filled with bad food, overworked nurses and sick people.

Fictional or otherwise, surely a place best avoided wherever possible.

So I can sympathise with Dannii Minogue when she claims an aversion to hospitals was her motivation in attempting a home birth for the arrival of her son almost two years ago.

Speaking out recently in defence of the controversial practice, Minogue cited her older sister Kylie’s high-profile battle against cancer as the first of two harrowing experiences that left her wary.

“The second time I was in hospital for a friend who died of cancer,” she added. “She never came out again.”

Growing up with a mother who was fighting aggressive cancer I lost count of the afternoons my siblings and I spent perched at the end of her hospital bed for an after-school visit.

The corridors of her ward, staff in the radiotherapy unit and well-worn gossip magazines in the oncologist’s waiting room are among the familiar fixtures of my childhood.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, hospitals became inextricably linked with feelings of helplessness and fear.


Then, when I was 17, my mother died and for several years those once-regular treks to hospital became confined to my paying the occasional bedside vigil to a friend or relative.

But the moment I would walk through the doors, and breath in that distinctive smell of disinfectant, the memories would come flooding back.

It was not until I reached my thirties and my husband and I decided to start a family that I was forced to confront my fears. I suspect this probably isn’t the technical term, but basically I had to “get over myself”.

This wasn’t just about me anymore – there was now a baby involved. And it is here the home-birthers and I part ways.

Advocates of shunning hospitals are fond of arguing that as a natural act, giving birth should not require medical intervention. Well don’t look now but “natural” doesn’t always equate to safe.

While pregnancy is not a disease – several months of nausea notwithstanding – it is a condition that requires close monitoring and professional care.

Scenarios peddled by home-birth lobbyists, wherein hospital patients are routinely bullied by unsympathetic surgeons, sit at odds with the dominant presence of midwives and the happy medium of birthing centres.

Another popular tactic is to point out, as Minogue was quick to do, that “Things can go wrong anywhere”.


Well of course they can. Nobody ever said checking into the maternity ward came with a problem-free guarantee. Human beings are fallible and sometimes, tragically, mistakes can happen.

But in the event of unexpected complications, a baby’s best chance at survival is in a hospital – as is Mum’s.

Despite the feelgood platitudes parrotted by home-birth champions, women in this country already enjoy a good deal of choice regarding where and how to deliver. And rightfully so.

But that should not extend to the right to give birth at home.

While heavily pregnant with my first child almost three years ago I was diagnosed with a rare condition that made a caesarean delivery the only option. If I’d attempted a natural birth without medical intervention both my son and I would have died.

For that reason I am particularly mindful it is a privilege to be living in a country like Australia where mothers-to-be are able to access hospitals with modern equipment and highly trained staff.

Why would anyone turn their nose up at that?

I must confess even two decidedly non-traumatic stints in hospital following the arrival of my beautiful sons has failed to soften my loathing of medical dramas.

But I’ve certainly learned that when giving birth, there’s no better place to be. To insist otherwise would be both reckless and selfish.

Sarrah Le Marquand is an Associate Editor and columnist at The Daily Telegraph. Visit her blog here.