Have you seen this video? Are you among the 16 million people around the world who’ve watched it?
It depicts Californian mother Audra Lynn and her husband Paul Sykes calmly birthing their second child at home in a small pool.
The video has been watched by more than 16 million people. Via Facebook.
In the video Audra squats in a pool in her living room. She is half-submerged in the water, naked from the waist down and with her husband looking on she carefully checks her baby’s position in her vagina with a mirror before she groans slightly and forcefully pushes her baby out, catching him in the water and then releasing her emotions in tears of joy as she cradles her newborn son.
Two minutes is all it takes. Two minutes in which she is a wonder and a goddess. It’s hard not to watch it without being amazed at just how effortless her birth is, how graceful she is. How beautiful the birthing experience is.
Its hard not to watch it without thinking 'Gee that looks easy. I could do that.'
The video depicts Californian mother Audra Lynn and her husband Paul Sykes calmly birthing their second child at home in a small pool. Via Facebook.
The video has been shared by the homebirth midwife Lisa Marie Sanchez Oxenham of Sacred Journey Midwifery, on her Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube pages.
Leaving 16 million people (and growing) around the world with the impression that home birth is always effortless, easy and always safe.
An impression that is incredibly dangerous.
Yes, home birth CAN be safe.
Yes, this home birth, Audra Lynn’s second WAS safe, as are millions of others around the world. But to categorise all home births as safe and effortless is a great concern and the fear with viral videos depicting home birth as effortless, easy and intervention free is that they polarise the birthing experience into two distinct camps.
Home births = easy and natural. Hospital birth = medicalised and painful. This is an incredibly troubling distinction to make.
This was Audra Lynn’s second home birth. Via Facebook.
Let’s look at the facts surrounding home births:
In Australia home birthing isn’t common. In fact only 0.9% of all women opt for home birth. They are expensive as private midwives are not covered under medicare to attend a birth at home hence they are rare.
But according to a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, babies delivered during a home birth are seven times more likely to die from complications than during a planned hospital birth.
The study's author, Professor Marc Keirse said that while, “the risks of babies dying during labour decreased over a number of years, it had not in home births."
Other studies have found that planned home births have a threefold increased risk for neonatal seizures or serious neurologic dysfunction than hospital births
Home births are not safe for many, many women. In fact, they are only ever suitable to very low-risk births and with a qualified midwife in attendance. Added to that the rise of “free birthing” - where babies are born at home without medical supervision - has muddied the waters for safe home births.
Over and over again we hear of coronial investigations recommending criminal actions towards midwives after botched home births.
Just this year a coroner recommended criminal action be considered against Victorian midwife Gaye Demanuele following a botched home birth.
The mother bled to death in the birthing pool.
It is one of three deaths allegedly associated with Gaye Demanuele, a mother and two newborns.
The recommendations came just a month before a baby boy died during a home birth in Adelaide and a year after an inquest into births attended by midwife Lisa Barrett whose home birthing practices have been allegedly been associated with the deaths of five newborn babies.
In an inquest into the deaths of three of these babies Deputy State Coroner Anthony Schapel said each of the three babies subject to his inquest would have been likely to have survived if they had been born in a hospital instead of a home setting.
They would have survived.
And this one - coronial findings we are waiting for, due to be handed down in Lismore this month after the death of a baby boy in Nimbin, after being home-birthed last year.
This little baby was born feet first, his parents knew he was feet first after a scan but refused medical intervention. His mother and father refused what would have been a relatively common birth in a hospital leaving her safe and healthy and their baby boy alive.
At the inquest his mother told the coroner she went ahead with the home birth because "did not understand the risks involved."
She thought it would be easy.
Doesn’t that just about sum it up?
It is easy to just view this video as a beautiful birthing experience. Of course it is joyous and wonderful and incredible, but don’t be misled. It could have been different.
While there may have been a hospital close by and a plan in case of complications, there just as easily may not have been.
And what about the other home births that follow inspired by viewing this "effortless natural experience?" Who is to say that those mothers understand the risks?
Videos like this are fun to watch but they aren’t realistic and they need to come with a footnote: “She was one of the lucky ones,” so others out there don’t get fooled into thinking birth is safe and effortless all the time.