Arizona women explore birthing options


Since the advent of modern medicine, the old tradition of women delivering their babies at home with a midwife has decreased significantly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1900 nearly all U.S. births occurred outside a hospital, with the vast majority occurring at home.

By 1940, the percentage of home births fell dramatically to just 44 percent, and down again to a mere 1 percent in 1969, where it remained through the 1980s and only dropped further through the '90s. In 2004, home births started increasing, 29 percent from 2004 to 2009, and have continued increasing since.

The beauty of birth is that women get to choose where they give birth to their babies. Not only do they have the option of a hospital or a home birth, an alternative that falls somewhere in the middle and has been growing in popularity over the years is a birth center delivery.

Birth centers usually are integrated within the healthcare system and will refer clients to physician care or transfer to a hospital if medical need arises. Many birth center midwives have relationships with the hospitals nearby and have hospital privileges when it comes to attending births that are transferred so there is no disruption of care provided.

Stephanie Jones, 29, chose to give birth at the hospital. She said that while there were specific options she wanted to look into regarding her birth, she knew from the beginning that she would deliver at a hospital.

“For me there wasn’t any other option,” Jones said. “I knew I wanted my OB to give birth to my baby and a hospital offers things that a birthing center or home does not when it comes to safety.”

Jones said that she needed the options a hospital has to offer in order for her and her husband to feel comfortable with their birth. Some reasons that women end up going with the birthing center or home birth route stem from an unpleasant experience their first time around and seeking a different, perhaps less invasive and more natural option.

Many women have been abandoning hospitals because they take issue with the high rates of cesarean sections, which was 32.8 percent as of 2012, according to the CDC.

Some women also feel that hospitals are not supportive of their birth plans, which may include not using medication, delaying cord clamping and insisting on immediate skin-to-skin contact.

But for Jones, after delivering her daughter Presley at the hospital with her obstetrician, she said she wouldn’t change a thing.

baby birth locations
Graphic by Julia Shumway

“I was very satisfied,” Jones said. “Everyone respected my birth plan and thankfully everything went smoothly. The staff was extremely helpful, encouraging and kind. My experience at the hospital was great and I trust my OB even more now.”

Jacqueline Kincer, 30, knew as soon as she found out she was pregnant that she wanted a medication-free birth. She said that she was completely unaware of the option of delivering at home, and started planning for a (now) traditional birth at a hospital.

Kincer said that after doing some research on natural births, including home births, and switching OBs, she was still planning on a hospital birth. That is until she enrolled in a 12-week Bradley Method course, which prepared Kincer for how to defend herself against doctors and nurses pushing medications in the delivery room.

“It was then that I decided a hospital birth was not for me and I would have a home birth,” Kincer said.

Kincer was already in her third trimester when she decided to make the switch, and she and her husband interviewed several midwives.

She said she chose a home birth because it ultimately resonated with her core values and that she felt a real spiritual connection with her midwife.

“She spent an hour with me at each appointment asking about my job, my mental state, my marriage, my life goals and of course my physical health and concerns around birth,” Kincer said. “She examined me as a whole person and I knew that this was someone who would truly support me, be in tune with my labor, be able to sense if something was wrong, and ultimately be my advocate for my baby and I.”

Kincer appreciated her midwife's warm and clean office that didn’t include a long wait in a cold, harsh, fluorescent-lighted waiting room. Kincer said her midwife changed her life, by helping her bring her son into the world and chart a change in her career.

“I believe more women are going the non-hospital route because they realize the dangers of allopathic medicine,” Kincer said. “They don’t have a personal connection with their “care” providers, it can be cheaper to have a home birth, and they also feel a deep need to connect with a primal part of themselves in the process of pregnancy, birth and beyond.”

Kincer’s house was located about five miles from a hospital, and she said she felt comfortable with the distance knowing that her midwife’s plan included calling the hospital before they arrived so Kincer would be able to bypass triage and get into a room immediately with doctors and nurses abreast of the situation, should anything happen.

When the time came for her birth, things didn’t go quite as she planned or desired. after a full day and several hours of labor, plus trying to push several times, Kincer said she knew she was at the end of her power to give birth at home.

“My midwife suggested that I sit on the birth stool and I was so exhausted and in such agony that for the first time in my life I said, 'I can’t do it,'” Kincer said. “My doula knew me well and knew that I’m no quitter. She told me I could do it and she knew that I wanted this home birth more than anything. I knew what she meant and had this been any other situation I could have mustered some more effort and done it. But this time, I couldn’t. My midwife let me say the words—“it’s time to go to the hospital,” but she had been whispering in a corner to her assistant for quite some time about it and she knew it was time to go, too.”

Despite her unsuccessful attempt at home birth, Kincer said she absolutely will go for a home birth with her next baby. Even thought she is happy with her end result, Kincer said that in some way she thinks she wants, or needs, her second birth to be a healing birth.

“Because I didn’t get the experience I wanted the first time around, and because a part of me needs to prove that I am capable of giving birth on my own terms, I desire to have a home birth again.”

Kallen Parker, 25, knew before she got pregnant how and where she wanted to give birth. She said that in her family, home birth is the norm and if she had birthed at a hospital she would have been the weird one.

“My sister had three of her four kids at home (the first was a birth center),” Parker said, “and my mom had the two of us naturally in a hospital so a home birth was the natural choice for me.”

Parker said that for her, hospitals are for sick people, and that she was pregnant, not sick.

“Hospitals are full of unnecessary interventions when it comes to birth. I didn’t want to be somewhere where I was forced to do things I didn’t want to do, and would have limited birth choices “ Parker said. “I think that is true of a lot of women. They recognize the importance of things like full range of movement and being allowed to eat and drink as they please. I also think it’s a natural progression of the green movement. People are moving to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and homebirth is the most natural, normal way to birth.”

Parker’s house was 15-20 minutes away from a hospital, but she said she was never worried about it, because she’s seen it done successfully multiple times and she knew the statistics regarding the safety of homebirth compared to a hospital birth.

Parker is now pregnant with her second child and is looking forward to another successful home birth.

“I love the environment of homebirth,” Parker said. “It really treats birth as a non-event. You go into labor, and eventually the midwife comes, you labor however you choose for however long, then after the baby is born, they do all the checks, clean up and quietly leave.

"It’s so peaceful and full of love. You get to cuddle in your own clothes, in your own bed, with your new family member. It made me fall in love with birth, and I’m so absurdly excited to labor and birth again.”