The Business of At-Home Births

Medical community criticizes Ricki Lake for supporting at-home births.

ByMable Chan via via logo

June 22, 2008 — -- A television personality's support of home births has ignited a debate with the medical community about the births' safety.

Like a growing number of mothers-to-be, actress and former talk show host Ricki Lake chose to forgo the hospital and give birth at home for her second pregnancy.

With a midwife, but no doctors, Lake gave birth in a bathtub at her home to her second son Owen seven years ago, and she even allowed it to be filmed for the documentary "The Business of Being Born."

"I got the contraction in the bathroom," Lake said. "There's a lot of pain. But when I finally surrendered to the pain ... I was so excited. I was like, 'Mom, mom this is my midwife. She delivered my baby.' And she stopped me and she said, 'No, you delivered your baby, Ricki.'"

After her experience, Lake became a vocal champion of women's rights to choose between a home or hospital birth. But the media attention about her passionate views has made the mainstream medical community nervous.

"I'm very concerned about anyone who may be advocating for home birth," said Dr. Erin Tracy, of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

In a recent resolution drafted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the organization singled out Lake for "taking on the baby birthing industry."

The statement reiterated the group's position against home childbirths.

While Lake said she expected some backlash, "I didn't expect to be personally targeted."

But Tracy said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was "not singling out any individuals in our resolution. But some celebrities have been interviewed about their experiences on home births. But there are dangers, risks. Babies get stuck in the cord, uncontrollable bleeding, et cetera.

"It's potentially dangerous to have a delivery in a home setting, where you don't have access to the personnel and the equipment and the facilities that you might need in an emergency setting -- even in the best of hands," Tracy added.

Still, a growing number of mothers are opting for a home delivery rather than heading to a hospital.

While home births make up only 1 percent of all U.S. births, more states are licensing midwives to deliver babies at home. In fact, Missouri passed a law earlier this week allowing certified professional midwives to handle childbirths at home -- joining 24 other states that already have laws on the books.

Even with the risks, some mothers interviewed by ABC News' "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" said they prefer the intimacy of an at-home birth, rather than going to a hospital.

"I think my personal preference would be to give birth at home because I feel that, in the hospital, there are many times interventions that occur, that sort of cascade and end up in a C-section," one woman said.

"I've attended several home births," another woman said. "I think it's just very relaxed."

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