Baby joy: Shuba Jay and husband Paul welcomed their baby girl after an unassisted home birth.
The case of two women who died during unassisted home birth here recently highlights issues like the safety of delivering babies in a non-hospital setting and the support services available.
I’m a mum, just that my son’s not with us now…” writes Lily Lai (not her real name) in her blog where she shares her birthing experience. What started as a joyous first pregnancy turned into a nightmare for the first-time mother when an unassisted home birth went awry.
She had learnt about natural childbirth and believed she could deliver her baby at home safely with the help of her hypnobirthing coach.
But 10 days after her first contractions started, Lai was rushed to the hospital only to find that her baby had died in her womb.
Late last year, two first-time mothers also had tragic unassisted home births; they died from excessive blood loss after delivering their babies.
National statistics for unassisted home births are not available but gentle birth advocates and doctors are saying the number is growing. A quick search on the Internet finds plenty of web sites, chat groups and links to books and home videos on the subject. Childbirth-related sites like HypnoBirthing Malaysia lists at least 90 unassisted home birth stories.
“A lot of times women are reluctant to come to hospital (to deliver their babies) because they feel their choices are taken away from them,” says consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur Dr Paul Ng Hock Oon.
Since 2008, a support network for mothers, The Gentle Birthing Group Malaysia (GBG), has been advocating “gentle birth” – drug-free and natural birthing options
“But a gentle birth doesn’t have to be natural birth, it can be a C-section if it’s done with respect to the baby and the mother makes the decision. If she’s happy with a medicalised birth (epidural, episiotomy and the whole works), it’s her choice,” says GBG representative Chrissy Steinhardt. “But when it’s not her choice, the interventions can result in a traumatic birthing experience for the mother.”
It doesn’t help that the medicalisation of childbirth means what is a straightforward, natural process is now treated as a medical procedure. Caesarean rates in Malaysian government hospitals hover around 25% in 2008 compared to around 10% in early 2000. The figure is believed to be higher in private practice.