AMA To Ricki Lake: No More Babies Born In Bathtubs, Please (Ricki Lake to AMA: Stuff It)
Ricki Lake gave birth to her second child at home, in her bathtub. Which is great, but I almost did her one better by very nearly giving birth in the front seat of my husband's car while we sped down the highway at close to twice the legal speed limit. However, almost giving birth in a speeding motor vehicle - which, can I say? TERRIFYING - was not my choice. Ricki Lake giving birth in a bathtub was a choice, and one that she feels strongly about. Interestingly, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association feel strongly about it, too - strongly enough to issue a statement saying that she made the wrong choice.
See, Ricki Lake made a movie about her choice, and the ACOG and AMA aren't too happy about it: ACOG released a statement, which was in turn supported in a resolution Tuesday by the American Medical Association, which said "There has been much attention in the media by celebrities having home deliveries" and which singles out Ricki Lake's film "The Business of Being Born" as part of the problem. The AMA's resolution resolves to support state legislation "that helps ensure safe deliveries and healthy babies by acknowledging that the safest setting" is a hospital, connected birthing center or other approved facility.
The problem, apparently, is that Ricki Lake, by publicizing her choice, sets the wrong example. She might, after all, influence some poor unsuspecting preggo to - gasp! - have a natural delivery at home. And that, ACOG and the AMA imply, would be wrong.
I - obviously, given that my own recent delivery almost happened in a vehicle speeding away from home - didn't give birth at home. I had a hospital birth planned, and - thanks to my husband's driving skills, but still with only seconds to spare - a hospital birth I had. And I'm glad that I did: even though a planned home birth would have eliminated the possibility of the terrifying car-baby chase, it would probably have gone badly. I had a terrible fourth degree tear that required immediate and extensive surgery and, well, that's not the kind of thing that could be dealt with in my bathroom. That said, I wouldn't want anyone to take the choice to have a home birth away from me, and I wouldn't want anyone restricting my ability to learn about that option.
So what's the deal here? Why are these organizations wagging their fingers at Ricki Lake? Some argue that it's a classic case of the medical establishment protecting their turf. "They need to protect their billion-dollar business" writes Maria of A Piece of My Mind. It's "scare tactics... they are out to protect their self-interest." Ecorazzi agrees with the claim of 'scare tactics,' noting that the AMA resolution states that women who choose to birth at home put themselves at risk of “maternal hemorrhage, shoulder dystocia, eclampsia or other obstetric emergencies," adding "nothing like taking away choices from people — or scaring the hell out of them into going your way."
Rhonda of Rants and Raves makes a similar argument:
This issue really is all about choice. I admire doctors and their many
skills. However I am getting tired of some of the scare tactics I see
being used. If every single hospital closed tomorrow babies would still
be born and most would survive the ordeal no matter whether they were
born in a bath tub or the back seat of a car.
I agree. (Mostly. That is, I agree entirely with the need for choice to be preserved, and I agree totally that the AMA should be taken to task for suggesting that anything other than a hospital or other medically-supported birth is dangerous. I don't, however, agree with any claims that home births are equally as safe as hospital births: the AMA is wrong to put a big flashing danger sign on all home births, but they're not wrong to state that in cases of obstetrical emergency, the hospital is the better place to be. If I hadn't been at hospital when I delivered my second child, I would have hemorrhaged. And no, there was likely no 'natural' way to avoid this - I had a big baby and a precipitous labor. He literally blasted his way out. It was his size and speed of exit that caused the damage. But I digress.) The AMA's effort to put their resolution into law smacks of self-interested turf-protection - and turf-protection never helps those who actually use the turf. Women are served best by having choice, and by having the information to make choices. If women are well-informed about the advantages and disadvantages of their various options (and all options in childbirth do carry both advantages and disadvantages), then they - and they alone - will be int he best position to decide how to birth their babies. They should of course be informed about the risks of delivering a baby at home - but they should also be informed of all of the benefits of doing so, as well.
Anything other than this is a step backward for womens' reproductive freedom, it really is. Shame on the AMA.
Read Ricki Lake's response to the controversy at the Huffington Post here.