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Health & Pregnancy

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Home Birth Policy Statement Issued by Doctor Group

A caregiver dedicated solely to the baby should be present, organization advises

continued...

Watterberg said midwives often work in teams, and one can be responsible for the baby's care after birth.

"It's important to remember that this is an area of strong emotion. You'll see babies in home births have terrible things happen, but you also have terrible things happen in the hospital sometimes. Women have the right to make an informed decision," she said.

And, if a woman chooses home birth, Watterberg said it's important for the expectant mother to meet the person who will care for her baby after birth. "Meet with that person beforehand. Talk with them about your plans, and see if they have anything to add," she advised.

Dr. Peter Bernstein is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and director of the perinatal safety program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. He said: "A woman planning a home birth has a lot of due diligence to take care of that she doesn't have to worry about in the hospital, like making sure the correct equipment is there, that the staffing is there and qualified.

"I understand where women are coming from. A hospital birth can become very medicalized and women feel a loss of control, but I'm nervous about home births. Too many simple things can turn into disasters at home. Even in low-risk women, things can go wrong. Then you may be 20 minutes from the hospital, and it's another 15 minutes once you get to the hospital before you can get the baby out in an emergency," explained Bernstein, who acknowledged that he treats high-risk pregnancies, so he tends to see more complicated births.

"I'd like to see a middle ground. I'd like to see more birthing centers associated with hospitals. Bring the home birth movement to a setting that feels more like home, but is attached to the hospital," he said.

But, he added, "In a low-risk woman, who can set it up properly, home birth shouldn't be outlawed. A woman can have the choice to have her baby at home."

The full policy statement is published online April 29 and will appear in the May print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

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