Thursday, 21 February 2013

Home birth needs your support!

About 5 minutes after giving birth, my midwife watching my son's first feed

Dear readers, 
If you are a supporter of The Mama's Hip, from whatever part of the world, be you male/female/inbetween, please read this post. 

Home is where I birth my babies. I am (despite having a public blog) a very private person. I don't want a bunch of strangers poking and prodding my fanny, not now, not when I'm pregnant, and certainly not when my baby's trying to make their way out of it. If you read my birth stories you will know that I birthed my two sons at home. I did not do it to make a political stance, I did not do it to prove a point, I did not do it to make you think you should have a home birth too. I did it because I was too scared to go near a hospital, full of strangers and equipment and needles and things I don't want to imagine. I did it because it was the only place I felt safe birthing my children. 

The Irish constitution states that a woman has a right to choose where she gives birth. Unfortunately, money and bureaucracy are threatening that, and are closing the small loophole which offers home birth to Irish women. A few years ago the few practising independent midwives, who are skilled professionals on a level with obstetricians/gynaes, were forced to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Irish health service. In order to remain insured, they had to sign over their right to practise on their own skilled terms, and have to comply with many prescribed guidelines that are not all evidence-based. (I'll cut this short, I'm afraid I'm going to lose you if I go into a lot of detail.)
There is a new stipulation that is in danger of coming into effect, stating that midwives will now have to have a second midwife in attendance. This is not possible in practice. There are not enough midwives out there to make this happen. The reasons behind this are many, but suffice to say that if this comes into effect, I may have to birth my next child in a hospital. I can tell you now that thought fills me with dread.

Whatever your thoughts on my above statement are, please remember I'm asking you not to AGREE with me that home birth is best, you only have to want it to remain an option for women who want it. I've copied an email below that I sent to two contacts in the health service, asking them to stop the second midwife clause and open up home birth as a viable option for women in Ireland. 

If you enjoy my blog, as a thank you to me for the FANTASTIC blog I write, please send an email of support, short and sweet, to the contacts below. It doesn't matter where in the world you are from, just sending it will ensure I get to have another home birth, and that many of my friends do too. 
Thank you,
Nee xx

Please sign the online petition, it takes 10 seconds.

The contacts to email, should you so wish, are:
a) Patient Focus - elected consumer representative for homebirth women: (01) 885 1611, 8851617, 8851633, 8851658 or 
b) Sheila Sugrue - National Midwifery Lead and Governance to support Homebirth:

I am a mother of two young boys based in Dublin 12. Both my sons were planned home births, with an independent midwife. I would not feel comfortable birthing in a hospital for many reasons. I hope to have more children, and again, would only be comfortable birthing at home. 
The current MOU is very disturbing to me. Firstly I view birth as a highly private and personal, almost sacred experience. I was only comfortable with my husband and trusted midwife present in the house each time. I did not want a doula or a trainee midwife there to observe my births, as I was completely happy with my husband and midwifes support. 
I am very concerned about the current idea of making two midwives compulsory for home births. Not only may this not be possible or practical from the midwives point of view, I view it as unnecessary and actually insulting to the competence of these highly-trained and experienced professionals. 
Would an obstetician in a hospital be forced to bring a back-up obstetrician for every birth attended?
Are you saying that if a home birth mother did not want a second midwife in attendance, she would have no choice but for this person to attend her birth, even against the mother's wishes?
For me, the relationship I built up with my midwife was so important, and to dilute that by insisting on a second midwife is introducing a lesser form of care, you are removing the one-on-one relationship from the equation that makes home birth so special.
As it stands, I am unhappy with the current MOU, I feel home birth is being squeezed into the sidelines, and runs a high risk of being made impossible in the near future. 
I would go so far as to say you are infringing on my constitutional right as an Irishwoman to choose the place where I birth my babies. I conceive them at home, I gestate them at home, and I will birth them at home. 

There is a growing demand for home birth from educated women who wish to avoid the over-crowded, disease-ridden services that the HSE provide. I have personally been admitted to a labour ward for a small complication in late pregnancy, and seen first-hand the blood-stained bodily fluids from the previous woman underneath my bed, the bloodied cotton balls and pool of uterine waters that remained there for 3 hours. You could not convince me that anywhere is safer to birth my babies than in the comfort and privacy of my own home, with trusted attendants. I would not be happy in a Domino/community midwife scheme, I want a rapport with one midwife who will provide my care throughout pregnancy and birth. 
I would urge you to prioritise the provision of home birth services throughout Ireland, restore the independence back to the independent midwives and make home birth a viable option for every woman, 
Thank you for your time,
Niamh O'Connell


  1. Hi Niamh!
    It saddens me to read this as it means that fewer women in Ireland will have the opportunity to give birth at home. We need to guard this right and own our births, whether it's at home or at a hospital. I already sent support e-mails and wish you good luck in this battle!

  2. It is sad to see what Ireland is going through regarding home births. I truly hope that this can be resolved and rest assured that I will support you as well with this. I will be sending my support emails promptly. Stand strong and know that we are behind you every step of the way.


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