Janet Fraser is a big advocate for homebirth. She is described as “one of the principals behind the homebirth organization Joyous Birth,” and goes so far as to call C-sections and episiotomies “birthrape.” “I don’t care if you don’t like the word or the idea,” she writes in an article on the site. “Survivors are angry and we are starting to talk about it.”
Sadly, Ms. Fraser lost her baby during a recent homebirth. One site says that she had been in labor for “several days” at her Australian home. The Age had published an interview with Fraser a week before, in which she stated that she planned to deliver “the baby at home without an attending midwife,” prompting The Australian College of Midwives to say that she “recklessly” promotes “free-birthing,” which is where the mother gives birth alone, according to London’s Daily Mail. (If that’s not a good description of free-birthing, let me know and I’ll update this article.)
The Age reports that police are investigating the newborn child’s death. At press time authorities were unsure if the baby died after delivery or was stillborn; in the latter case, there is no autopsy.
It’s tremendously sad when this happens of course, no matter where the birth occurs. It never occurred to my wife and I to have a homebirth, but of course millions of people do it and everything turns out fine. Medpie offers some statistics that are alarming, such as one study that found “an infant mortality rate of 2.2 per thousand for home births and 0.7 per thousand for hospital births in Sweden.” They interpret these numbers as saying that “having a home birth resulted in a preventable death of the infant in one out of every 666 cases,” which they call “not a reassuring number.” But again, I’m not trying to say that homebirthing is automatically a bad idea. It’s a choice, one that should be taken very seriously.
The real problem with Fraser’s views isn’t the views themselves but the way she expresses them. She’s clearly angry, and may have reason to be. But as with those who are strong proponents of breastfeeding, it’s better to advocate rather than attack anyone that may do things differently than you do. C-sections are sometimes medically necessary. Is that a “birthrape”? The rest of the site appears to be equally high in volume, such as this page about C-sections which makes the claim “The fact is that surgery is a suboptimal way to be born and that most surgeries are not for evidence based reasons,” (emphasis not added), and advises mothers to “Put your anger where it belongs – with your surgeon.” Because yelling at your doctor is an excellent way to get better healthcare.
With the obvious tragedy of what happened to Ms. Fraser’s baby, it seems uncouth to really go after her with the same level of vituperativeness that she displays on the Joyous Birth site. And one sad event does not mean that every homebirth is a bad idea. But it seems fair to take a moment to suggest that the best course of action, when lives are at stake, is to take a deep cleansing breath and consider all of your options, rather than act out of anger or any sort of revolutionary zeal.
Source: medpie.com, others