Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hidden no more

In memory

Over the years I've received pleas from women who have lost their babies at homebirth. Each woman has suffered unimaginable tragedy and she wants to know that her baby's death will not be ignored.

She cannot change the choices that she made, cannot bring her baby back, but perhaps the story of her baby's death can open the eyes of other women to the dangers of homebirth. Each woman is different and the details of her story is different, but one refrain is common to them all: "if only I had known the truth about homebirth, I would not have chosen it." The irony of homebirth is not lost on them; they thought they were making a loving choice and instead they were taking a terrible risk.

As Liz Paparella eloquently wrote on the first anniversary of her daughter Aquila's birth and death:
All I can think about is how I chose homebirth ... and I gave my daughter death.
Unfortunately, women contemplating homebirth don't know the risks and homebirth advocates aren't about to tell them. In fact, adding insult to injury, when a bereaved mother attempts to share her baby's story with other homebirth advocates, the baby is figuratively erased out of existence. Homebirth websites delete homebirth tragedies. They don't want women to know the truth.

Who is trying to erase homebirth deaths?

MANA (the Midwives Alliance of North America), the organization that represents homebirth midwives, has a database of 18,000 homebirths attended by its members, the largest homebirth database currently in existence. That database has been analyzed and MANA knows how many of those 18,000 babies died at the hands of CPMs. But you can't find out that number. Why? Because MANA will only show its data to those who promise to use it for the "advancement of midwifery" and sign a legal non-disclosure agreement prohibiting them from telling the truth to anyone else.

Evidently, MANA has recognized that, as investigative reporter Paul Brodeur has written:
Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.
The numbers may be dry data, but each data point represents the tragic death of a beloved newborn, and, therefore, no one should be allowed access to their statistics.
deaths have been erased.

Private websites run by homebirth advocates frequently and proudly delete comments unfavorable to homebirth, and there's nothing more unfavorable than a homebirth story that ends in death.

Enough is enough. Hurt by Homebirth has been created as a safe place where women can tell the stories of the babies who died or who were left brain damaged or otherwise injured by homebirth. And though maternal death is far more rare, it is also a place where families can tell the story of mothers who have died at or in the aftermath of a homebirth.

This is not a debate board; there are other places for debate listed in the sidebar. But we will try to provide sources to research papers and other accurate information on the death toll of homebirth.

If you have a story to submit, you can send it to me at Please include a picture or pictures if you can. Babies who have been hurt by homebirth should be seen, literally, so everyone can understand that each death represents an unimaginable tragedy for the babies who never had a chance to live, and for the families who will mourn them forever.

The babies who have died at homebirth will be hidden no more.


  1. Wouldn't it serve the consumer best to change this blog to "Hurt by Birth" and allow a place for ALL birth injuries and deaths to have a place to tell their stories??

    Far more mothers and babies are injured and die at the hands of negligent practitioners and unnecessary interventions than at home births.

    Yes, babies sometimes die at home, and perhaps some of those deaths could have been prevented by better care, sooner/faster transport to hospital... But, the fact remain that sometimes babies die, despite all our safe preparation, appropriate equipment and preventative measures. And THAT is no different in the hospital!

    Stop vilifying home birth and the midwives who serve families who choose it. Seek to close the gap in care from home to hospital and facilitate better physician/midwife collaboration.

    1. These mothers have a right to share their stories! Obviously you are a part of the home birth movement and so would like to say that there is just as much if not more babies dying in the hospital setting, but that is simply NOT true! These babies could have been saved by the hospital staff that are trained properly to deliver babies, not a bunch of "lay" women who like birth and think they know everything, and oh, ya, just trust birth! There is a reason they're called lay midwives, cause they don't actually have any medical training! So, please don't act like this should be about all moms who have had a loss. This is for the mothers that are being shamed and silenced by the so-called accepting home birth community. I'm an NICU nurse and we get these babies and its heartbreaking to know some of them could have been saved.

    2. "Far more mothers and babies are injured and die at the hands of negligent practitioners and unnecessary interventions than at home births." - Oh that statement is so out of context, and statistically lacking. Come on. Get some basic stats knowledge and stop making up your own statistics and holding them as valid interpretation.

      And while I'm at it... citation please.

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  3. I applaud your desire to give these mothers a place to grieve. I'm concerned, however, at the potential misplacement of grief on homebirth as a whole. Isn't it more about incompetence? Incompetence happens everywhere, including hospitals.

  4. How about moms who went to a birthing center? I know one with a powerful story...

  5. First few comments are just what I'd expect from homebirth advocates. "Far more mothers and babies are injured and die at the hands of negligent practitioners and unnecessary interventions than at home births." Where's that statistic? I'd like to see it. The one I've read is that home birth triples the rate of neonatal death.

    1. But you see, that's the statistical fallacy they are portraying. They are citing magnitude not rate. Their point is moot to the educated.

  6. As a pediatric nurse and mommy to 3, I can say that having a home birth is the riskiest thing to plan when someones life is at stake. Healthy mommies do bleed to death....babies do get their cords wrapped too tight...meconium can be dangerous...GBS is a killer in newborns...babies get stuck...why plan the most important day of your baby's life full of unknowns and risks at your house? When that heartbeat starts to plummet, or that mommy starts to bleed out,all you want or need is a medical team of expects and help STAT...IVs, intubation,crash carts and an NICU...not "just a 3 minutes down the road drive to the hospital excuse". For Christ sakes people, it's not about you and your beautiful GD birth experience (music, birds...baths...friends)'s about a breathing healthy baby and a breathing healthy mommy. Period. Home births DO KILL!

    The women who told their stories here as so strong...getting the word out about unsafe homebirths is so important. You are saving other babies by telling your heartbreaking experience.

  7. ABSOLUTELY agree with comment above from the nurse....its amazing to me that so many homebirth advocates try to 'cover themselves' by saying 'hospitals have bad experiences too' ....of coarse we all realize that even the best medical care cant always save every baby, but when you have people with no medical training trying to perform MEDICAL procedures, you are going to have a lot more of a chance for a bad outcome, thats commen sense. Dont try to tell me 'birth is such a natural thing women have been doing for 1000's of years and they should be able to do it at home if they want' know how many women from 100 years ago who would have been THRILLED to have the technology that we have today??? Their baby might have lived, because MANY MANY women and babies DIED in childbirth back then. No one is going to force 'medical intervention' on you, if you dont want drugs, dont take them, if you want a different than hospital setting, go to a birthing center attached to a hospital, there are many options. I bet if you asked most of the women who had these tragic experiences with homebirth how they felt about it before their experience, they would have probably sounded like that first poster....its sad that it takes tragedy to make some people understand. Babies are NOT 'acceptable statistics' and if anyone can give me a good reason to gamble with your baby's life Id love to hear it. Because thats what it is, a gamble. Is your 'peaceful, comfortable homebirth experience' worth risking your babies life?

    I applaud the women on here who had the courage to tell their stories, what happened to them is the most horrible thing a parent would ever have to go through and everyone SHOULD know about it.

  8. I had to have a c-section to deliver to all of my babies. My first baby I tested positive for GBS. My second baby had the grunting that signals respiratory distress. Both were treated for these problems and are healthy today. I got a shiver reading these stories-thinking about how if I had been able to consider a homebirth, what might have been... These parents have suffered so much, I am sorry for their losses. I saw a CNM for prenatal care with my first child and she assisted with his delivery. Interestingly, she refuses to do homebirths because as she said "in a hospital birth is safer-medical help is right there if needed".

  9. @Kate Mosny :
    I have worked in Level 1 NICUs for over 10 yrs..
    Homebirth transfers are - typically - just nightmares. Pull your head out Kate !

  10. I am 7.5 months pregnant and was looking into unassisted/home births ONLY to deal with my fear of not making it to the hospital in time, which is unlikely I know, but I figured if I knew what to do, I wouldn't fear it so much. The one thing I cannot understand is why, when situations occur where SECONDS count, would someone want to be even MINUTES away from advanced medical care? Unwanted medical intervention? Really? I hate to be crass, but really, grow a pair! Check hospital policies in advance so if they have a policy in place that is a deal-breaker for you, find another. I just don't understand the idea that once you are in a hospital, you lose control over your own health care. How do the advocates convince people of this? I would really like to know what it is they say about that.

  11. If I understand correctly, there is no official medical body that overseas the qualification of midwives in the United States? I live in the UK, and there is a big push by the NHS to increase their homebirths. I myself had a home birth, after talking it over with an OBGYN and it was a VBAC as well. There were 3 midwives in attendance for my birth and I was well cared for throughout.

    I am not naive enough to maintain that home birth is for everyone. It horrifies me, actually, to think that there are people that purport to be medical professionals that aren't fully trained or qualified in any measurable way.

    My prayers are with these grieving families.

  12. kudos to u dr Amy for establishing this long overdue website . I am a neonatologist who has seen the wreckage of attempted home births and even some birthing centers. Prospective parents need to know that their providers may have little to no advanced medical training and that a home birth, or delivery at a birthing center that IS NOT attached to the hospital is like rolling the dice with the health of the most important people in your life. Most of the time, things will work out; thats why humans are a successful species!! But when NATURAL childbirth goes wrong, babies die and mothers die; that is NATURAL TOO. THAT IS WHAT MEDICAL CARE HAS CHANGED; the neonatal and maternal DEATH RATE. Why in the world would you roll the dice and go without the care that has proven so successful??

    1. I am sitting here wiping my eyes for the fourth time ... and I'm not even a mother! Kudos to each and every one of these women (and their partners) for sharing their stories. May God bless each and every one of you with love and peace, if not more children. You made your decisions based on information you were given (as false as that was); the deaths of your children were NOT your fault.

      And Dr. Catherine, I agree rolling the dice in terms of birth is one of the most ridiculous things anyone can do. I'd like to share a family story that's had me convinced since childhood that real medical care (with all its imperfections) is the way to go in terms of birth. (I also verified this story with some of the staff that were present for this.)

      In December 1976, my mom was in the hospital, in labor with my sister. She was fairly young (28 at the time), and in reasonably good physical health. Nothing during her pre-natal checkups indicated any kind of serious problem.

      My sister, nearly 8 pounds, had not even crowned when Mom's pelvic muscles stopped working. Literally. If an emergency team had not been right there, my sister would have died.

      It's true that mistakes are made among licensed medical practitioners ... but real medical care was what saved my sister's life. Today, she is healthy, married, and has two sons of her own. Both of whom she had in a hospital. :)

  13. Kim Mosny has now presided over a homebirth in which a baby's life was taken. How sad.

  14. I am 27-years old, married for two years, and just now starting to think about children.

    Thank you so much for this website, Dr. Amy...

    Thank you women for your heartbreaking stories, thank you, thank you. You are heroes.

  15. Wow. Last year I had watched "The Buisness of Being Born" and I was terrified to have my 2nd baby in the hospital, even though I did with my first and everything was perfect. I had my 2nd one in the hospital epidural again as well, and everything went perfect. Now I'm pregnant with my third and found another documentry on how homebirths are better so I googled homebirth and found this site and have been in tears!!! Thank You for this site! Thank you women for sharing your stories! To think that I would let some "idealistic fantasy" determine how I want to birth my baby scares me! It sounds nice at first, but what I see now that even though hospitals arent always comfortable, warm, magical it's still worth it to bring my babies into the world in one! I have had nothing but good experience in a hospital, and epidurals have no negative affects on me or the baby, both my children are normal, smart children.

  16. Thank you for setting up this website. And thanks, and the most profound respect, to those courageous mothers, and families, who have told their tragic stories in the hope of saving others from the same torment. It is absolutely true that other websites censor accounts telling of bad outcomes from home deliveries: I have seen it happen, and those who had posted been banned from the sites. Which makes this site so much more valuable.

    To those asking about figures...well, try looking at the data from Holland. Home birth is relatively accepted, but regulated, there: many low risk births are at home, but with the high risk births in hospital. And the death rate for the babies is slightly higher for the home births. Yes, the death rate for the LOW RISK ONLY home births is HIGHER than for the hospital births WHICH INCLUDE THOSE EXPECTED TO BE HIGH RISK. Personally, I find that terrifying.

    I worry, deeply, that a significant proportion of women who choose a home birth have done so having been given inadequate information. I worry that women believe a birth centre is "like a hospital" when it is really just a home birth where you're not left with the clean up job afterwards. Ask most neonatologists which resuscitations stuck in their minds for the most awful hopeless futility, and it will be those poor babies transferred in to hospital too late. Ask yourselves why so few paediatricians and neonatologists choose home births themselves.

    And why do I care? As a paediatrician, I'm one of those doctors trying desperately to resuscitate someone's beloved baby brought in dead, or spending sleepless nights trying to keep them alive, or having to break the news that they have passed away, or seeing them in clinic for years seeing their disabilities become ever more apparent. I'm one of those cold, clinical, cynical, heartless medical-model doctors...who sheds tears for every baby we lose.

  17. I find the idea of homebirth terrifying. Even if you are "low-risk", childbirth can change in a second. My sister had a complication that occurred in the blink of an eye and would have killed her if she had been at home. As it was, the medical team had to RUN down the corridor to get her into the operating theatre on time and she had to receive 8 pints of blood.
    I had my first baby in the UK and I am having my second in the US. I am shocked by the lack of regulation surrounding homebirths in the US. As was said above, things are much more regulated in the UK (thanks to our system of healthcare) and the NHS has to provide 2 dedicated midwives to a homebirth and they are well regulated and have the backing of the rest of the NHS, hospitals, ambulances etc. Although this wouldn't have saved my sister, had she had a homebirth and deaths will still be recorded in homebirths regardless.
    However, despite my sister's experience, I still found myself considering homebirth in the US (albeit for a matter of seconds). Why? Because the following statement written above it NOT true:
    "No one is going to force 'medical intervention' on you, if you dont want drugs, dont take them, if you want a different than hospital setting, go to a birthing center attached to a hospital, there are many options"
    1) I've heard some pretty unsettling stories in the US, the like of which, I have never heard of in the UK which directly contradict this. A friend of mine recently had her third child here (in the US), she arrived at the hospital 9cm dilated and was told by her OB to have an epidural and pitocin. What's the scientific evidence for that? She tried telling him no but he insisted. I personally wouldn't want to have an argument with anyone when I was at that stage of labour, least of all the person to whom I was entrusting the lives of myself and my child. She tried to argue with him but was told "this is my protocol" and she really felt that she had no choice. And you know what? She's now saying that she would consider a homebirth for baby #4 after her experience. Attitudes like those of this OB, which are not based on medical evidence, showing complete disrespect for the woman simply serve to drive women towards homebirth in search of another option.
    2) You say "there are other options". I've been shocked by how few options are available in the US compared with the UK. At first, I felt that I had no options here other than a hospital, very medicalised birth with OBs such as those I described above or a risky, expensive homebirth. Free-standing birth centres don't seem any safer (to me) than homebirths since they would still require a transfer to a hospital in case of an emergency. After more research, I found ONE birth centre which was inside a hospital. And I live in Cambridge, MA which should have more options that most parts of the US. When you force women to choice between two options which both seem unpalatable, some will make the "wrong" choice. And the US is supposed to be about freedom??

    Childbirth is a mess in this country. Some OBs are great but I'm afraid that some do not base their decisions on evidence nor do they show much respect for the woman. While this trend continues, women will be pushed by documentaries such as Ricki Lake's into "better" birth choices which actually end up being worse. There are examples of negligence by OBs on this very website (the GBS strep positive test that was never sent to the mother??!!). Trust needs to be restored in hospitals and OBs and more options (such as birth centres INSIDE hospitals) need to be made available so that women are more likely to make the SAFE choices for themselves and their babies.

    1. Birth centres inside hospitals yes I 100% agree. I Trained at a hospital with a high risk labour ward run by doctors with midwives providing the nursing care and delivery with doctors there if needed. The low risk labour ward was run by midwives just down a corridor, transfer to the high risk ward was quick and easy. This model of care means women can avoid un warranted medical interventions which can in some cases cause damage but it also means the doctors are available in an an instant for warranted intervention. The best model of care. I am so sad for these poor examples of midwives and the pain they have caused.

  18. I am planning on having a homebirth for my baby this May. I appreciate having this source to give more insights to my decision. My biggest fear is that my baby would die, my heart breaks for these women. Where I live direct entry midwivery is illegal, which I'm sure many of the homebirth opponents appreciate, so my birth will be unassisted, which is unfortunate. I am not perfect or always right, but research and intuition tells me a homebirth is the right decision for me.

    1. I urge you to consider a certified midwife within a hospital or at least a birthing centre near a hospital x

  19. as well as the mother of a 33w0d preemie, and homebirth makes me VERY nervous. In my cousin's case, the nearest hospital was at least a 30-min drive, and a life and death emergency would have required an airlift. Thankfully, this has not been an issue. Yet.

    I am all for natural birth, to whatever extent is right for the mother. I am also all for comfortable epidural birth. I am infuriated by "birth Nazi's," these doulas/midwives/nurses/etc who are so close-minded and obsessed with birth the way THEY see it, and force these ideas/beliefs onto the families they are supposed to be caring for. A common thread in the stories posted here is the mother experiencing fear of the midwife's opinion and that's just all sorts of jacked up.

    Anyway, I could write more, but I'm a bit flustered from how upsetting these stories have been. Utterly heartbreaking!! As a professional and as a mother, I urge families to consider hospital births or in-hospital birth centers as opposed to home births. So many advances have been made to create homey environments within a hospital setting, and education of nurses, midwives, and physicians has evolved to include more progressive birth practices. Please take to heart the stories posted here. It can - and does - happen to anyone. Don't let your baby be the next one lost...

    Jessica, RN MSN FNP-C