An interesting article on home birthing in Israel was published in the Israeli newspaper "7 days" last Friday. Planned home births used to be extremely rare to nonexistent in the past decades, but apparently, there is a new wave of mothers who feel that giving birth at home, for various reasons, is better for them and their babies.
Women describe feelings of helplessness, loneliness and frustration as they find themselves face-to-face with an uncaring establishment which routinely messes up perfectly normal births simply because they "ought" to progress faster, or because giving drugs for pain relief is more convenient for the delivery room staff.
In 2006, around 350 Israeli women chose to give birth at home. In 2007, this number nearly doubled. A research of the trend was recently published - the first of its kind in Israel which focuses not only on the risks attributed to home births, but on why mature, educated women would choose such a seemingly risky option.
"Epidrual is very convenient for the staff," - says one of the women who participated in the research, - "When one midwife is in charge of three rooms, she doesn't have the time, energy or desire to face women who scream, curse and lose control. It's easier and more pleasant to deal with a calm woman who pushes when being told." (translation mine)
Another reason for the many unnecessary interventions is rooted in doctors' fear of lawsuits. "They take a healthy woman, who arrives at the hospital to give birth, and tell her 'let's induce and give an epidural', and in ten minutes turn her into an intensive care patient with an i.v. and a needle in her back and a catheter for urine and blood pressure checks and monitoring."
That is precisely the attitude I experienced in the first hospital where I arrived, the day before I had Shira. The number of invasive checks and pressure to have various interventions were simply unbelievable - especially considering that the doctor himself admitted, when pressed, that I will most likely have a natural, straightforward birth within the next 24 hours if simply left alone. But they were in such a hurry to get it over and done with, that they got me in the delivery room without even saying anything, and then told me matter-of-factly "we're going to give you pitocin." We grabbed our belongings and made a narrow escape, but think of all the women in a similar situation who didn't.
When we refused pitocin, the doctor raised an eyebrow and asked, "why?"; can you see how backwards this is? There should be a better reason to mess up with a normal and natural birth process than why not!
Hospital authorities and Ministry of Health officials don't tire of warning against home births, and insist that hospital is the safest environment for mother and baby.
"Do we pressure women to get things going and don't allow natural processes to take place? In a way, yes. That's the price Western society pays in the effort to have a minimal number of complications and deaths."'
In order to register for the financial benefits she deserves by Israeli law, a woman who gave birth at home must present herself and her baby in a hospital within 24 hours after giving birth. Hospitals receive thousands of dollars from the government for each birth, even if it actually took place at home - while women don't get any refund for the expenses of home birth. Thus, a home birth is something not any Israeli woman can afford.
"The establishment is simply against home births," - comments one mother, - "that's why it tries to financially reinforce hospital births. We saved money to have a birth at home. It was an amazing, warm and loving experience. Many women think that home births are primitive. I believe that a hospital birth, with the methods they use, is truly primitive."