Our developing insights into the microbiome have the potential to change everything regarding homebirth for moms—if we can get the word out about its importance to a healthy life. We will need to work on this from all spheres of influence.
What I have learned so far has given me renewed hope that we can encourage homebirth far and wide, with moms knocking down the doors of midwives to obtain homebirth services. The bottom line is that the best microbe transmission for a newborn baby will come from a well-attended homebirth. (Michel Odent wrote an amazing article about this in Midwifery Today, Issue 120, Winter 2016—which was focused on the microbiome.)
The best homebirth is one where the midwife knows to keep her hands off and out of the mom as much as possible. It is one where a sacred respect is given to the motherbaby. It is one where the midwife encourages the mother or father to receive the baby, where the first two hours after birth are given the highest respect, while the midwife diligently watches for and handles any complications that may arise. She should be a very skilled midwife, and understand the primal health of the baby.
Part of our homebirth practices must include educating parents on the importance of the microbiome in birth. We need to encourage them with this new knowledge on how and why to protect their baby’s microbiome. This is also a good time to talk about bonding and the importance of tuning in to their new baby. Turn off the cell phone and make the calls to family and friends only after at least two hours. If we can leave cell phones off during a movie or church service, we can indeed do it for our new baby!
Knowledge of the microbiome has led some hospitals be more supportive. This is important because one-third of babies are still born by cesarean—often unnecessarily—and many more are induced. Mothers are given epidurals, babies are removed from mom too fast, and the cord is cut too soon. Hospitals are not places to set the foundation of health for a person’s whole life except in the case of an emergency. Home is the best place for normal birth.
Think about the health care savings if 80% of the people in this world were born at home and the other 20% were helped to birth by midwives and doctors who understood, and took seriously, the microbiome. I can’t even imagine the global health care savings, but also the human benefit of good health—both physical and emotional. It is time for this knowledge to be taught and understood by every practitioner who works with pregnant women and their families.
The birth of my first child culminated in a horrible hospital experience. My baby was taken away from me as soon as she was born. That was the worst thing that happened in my life. I was left alone and lonely for the first hours after birth. This eliminated any birth high I might have had. The physical and mental health of this new human being is one of the most important reasons to make sure that birth occurs in the most optimal way.
Fortunately, after that birth I was guided to homebirth. It was actually a doctor who talked me into having a homebirth! I am so glad he did. My two homebirth experiences were life changing. My first homebirth got me into the field of midwifery. The difference between that birth and my first fueled my calling to be a midwife and then to start Midwifery Today. I was high on my first homebirth for three years. It moved me so much that I could not give up the idea of helping any mom who wanted one to have a homebirth. This was in 1976, when the homebirth movement was beginning. It was a powerful time and so many women got into the field because of their homebirths.
Why have a homebirth? The microbiome can be put at the top of the list. Other reasons are comfort in your surroundings and having control of your birth. Another joy is having a good midwife and the people you want around, as well as not having to leave the house and go somewhere else—often with a stall if not a stop of the labor. (Read this excellent article on why to choose homebirth by one of our former editors and an experienced homebirth midwife, Jill Cohen: midwiferytoday.com/why-homebirth/)
Every mother has the right to give birth wherever she wants with whomever she wants to attend her. Homebirth as a right needs to be spread to every country, state and city of the world—everywhere. The Global Midwifery Council puts it this way: “The most basic human right for every woman is the right to choose her place of birth and who will attend her. Mothers and babies do best in an environment conducive to the respect for the physiology of birth.”
That environment is indeed the home, especially because we can now add the microbiome to the physiology of birth! As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!”
Toward better birth,