"Your home is where your heart is," according to Danielle Bergum, and that is exactly why she chose to have her daughter in the comfortable setting of her midwife's home, surrounded by people she loved.
Bergum, 26, mom to Isabella, born in 2008, is just one of many in the area who have chosen or are considering home birth over hospital birth.
According to a National Vital Statistics Report published in March, home births increased by about 5 percent in 2005 from the year before. Reports like these are often released years later because of the time required for data collection and analysis.
Desi Johnson with newborn son, Asher, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Parkersburg.
Out-of-hospital births represent about 38,500 of the 4.3 million live births in the U.S., making up about 0.90 percent in 2005 and 2006, according to the report.
Mothers are citing various reasons for wanting to give birth to their children at home. Among them are comfort, no needles and tubes and no unnecessary procedures, and the ability to listen to their bodies and move at their own pace.
"Even with a birth plan, a doula and a midwife, hospital birth is still a hospital birth," argued Bergum. "Your baby is still being born where sick patients go; you are still in a sterile environment away from the comforts of your own home; you are still being watched and monitored; you are still surrounded, mostly, by people who don't believe in the complete ability of the body to know how to birth. You are still on someone else's turf."
- In 2006, there were 38,568 out-of-hospital births in the United States, including 24,970 home births and 10,781 births occurring in a freestanding birthing center.
- After a gradual decline from 1990 to 2004, the percentage of out-of-hospital births increased by 3 percent from 0.87 percent in 2004 to 0.90 percent in 2005 and 2006. A similar pattern was found for home births.
- After a gradual decline from 1990 to 2004, the percentage of home births increased by 5 percent to 0.59 percent in 2005 and remained steady in 2006.
- Compared with the U.S. average, home birth rates were higher for non-Hispanic white women, married women, women aged 25 and over, and women with several previous children.
- Home births were less likely than hospital births to be preterm, low birthweight, or multiple deliveries.
- The percentage of home births was 74 percent higher in rural counties of less than 100,000 population than in counties with a population size of 100,000 or more.
- The percentage of home births also varied widely by state; in Vermont and Montana more than 2 percent of births in 2005/2006 were home births, compared with less than 0.2 percnt in Louisiana and Nebraska.
- About 61 percent of home births were delivered by midwives. Among midwife-delivered home births, one-fourth (27 percent) were delivered by certified nurse midwives, and nearly three-fourths (73 percent) were delivered by other midwives.
The debate over home birth versus hospital birth has been ongoing for years but has been in the news again recently because of an American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology meta analysis which linked home births to an increased infant mortality rate and an editorial by the British medical journal, The Lancet, which said, "Women have the right to choose how and where to give birth, but they do not have the right to put their baby at risk. There are competing interests that need to be weighed carefully."
Several attempts to speak about the debate with medical professionals both locally and regionally were unsuccessful.
First-time mother, Trisha Miller, 32, of Marietta, was seriously considering home birth when she was pregnant with daughter Zoey in 2007 and 2008.
"When I was pregnant, I researched many options for my birthing experience," Miller said. "Other than everyone's ultimate goal of a healthy baby and mama, my main goal for my birthing experience was to have as natural a birth as I could. I wanted no interventions; I wanted to labor without pain medications and without any induction techniques."
Miller chose childbirth hypnosis classes to assist her through a natural childbirth and had a good rapport with her obstetrician but ultimately decided to deliver at Marietta Memorial.
"My husband (John) was supportive of the idea of a home birth but was still stuck on the 'what-if' scenarios," Miller said. "(He was thinking of) the worst case.
"The fact that Marietta Memorial Hospital has such a luxurious birthing tub and a facility that, while still looking like a hospital room, attempted to hide all of the 'just-in-case' medical equipment ... that was a factor for me.
"Knowing I had such a wonderful, supportive and natural-birth-educated team was the most important factor. I knew no matter where I gave birth, having my team at my side, I was going to have a fulfilling natural birth and a healthy and alert baby girl."
Marietta resident Elizabeth Miller is a member of a local organization, Mama*ology, which seeks to educate parents through the pregnancy, birthing and parenting phases.
She and husband, Nat, were able to experience both a hospital birth with son Paul and a home birth with son Gideon. Nat recounts the experience on the Mama*ology website:
"Elizabeth and I have been blessed to observe both an in-hospital Cesarean section birth and an at-home, completely natural birth with our two wonderful baby boys. I can in all honesty say that I would not change anything about either birth. We believed wholeheartedly in each instance that we were doing what was best for our unborn child and I have no regrets. Both of them are here and no worse for the wear," he wrote.
Desi Johnson, of Athens, chose to give birth to son, Asher, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Parkersburg because her concerns for her own well-being and that of her son outweighed the risks of infection or other concerns related to giving birth in a hospital.
"My reason for choosing to deliver in a hospital was because of a family history of complications," she said.
"Close relatives of mine had problems with hemorrhaging after birth and several of my family members, including one of my brothers, experienced respiratory distress when they were born.
"Even though I realized there was no guarantee that these events would occur at my son's birth, I felt more comfortable delivering in a facility that could respond quickly if something were to go wrong."