It has been called a ‘silent tragedy’.
A ‘silent tragedy’ as parents risk the possibility of their baby having a long-term disability by choosing a home birth.
A ‘silent tragedy’ because the talked about risks of home birthing focus more often on the heartbreaking baby and maternal deaths.
A ‘silent tragedy’ because Australian parents are still often risking the futures of their unborn babies by making birthing decisions based on parental needs rather than the needs of the baby.
And Doctors are now demanding that this ‘silent tragedy’ comes to the fore.
A leading Australian obstetrician has argued that the risk of future long-term disability to newborns should “weigh heavily” in decisions about whether to give birth at home or in hospital.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Associate Professor Lachlan de Crespigny of the University of Melbourne says that most arguments have focused on the risk of death, but he and Oxford University’s Professor Julian Savulescu believe the possibility of long-term disability deserves as much attention.
“Having a home birth may be like not putting your child’s car seat belt on,” they write. “The risk of being injured in a single trip by not wearing a seat belt is extremely low. Still, we expect people to wear a seatbelt to make the risks as low as possible, despite some inconvenience and diminution of driving pleasure.”
Professor de Crespigny feels that women and their partners may be poorly informed of all the potential risks they could be taking by choosing a homebirth.
“Obstetric care is a specialty where things go wrong very quickly,” Professor de Crespigny told AAP.
“Something that scares all people involved in delivery is shoulder dystocia, where the head is delivered but not the shoulders. The baby asphyxiates very quickly.
“To deal with that you need excellent training and hospital-level resuscitation facilities.”
They cited a study from the Netherlands which found that when travel time from home to hospital is more than 20 minutes, there is an increased risk of the baby dying or suffering a long-term condition, and other studies which showed that delays in accessing emergency care increased risks of brain damage.