Matilda Rice and her baby Milo (Instagram)

Art and Matilda’s home birth was safe and critics need to back off

A patronising, snide and all-round awful opinion column tried to guilt the celebrity couple for giving birth at home, and Emily Writes is not having it.

If you ever want to write an opinion column, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the absolute best way to end it if you know full well it’s a piece of flaming incomprehensible garbage.

Simply put at the bottom: “The author is a qualified doctor based in the South Island. They have requested anonymity to protect their personal and career opportunities”.

Done.

This is going to be the new way to sign off anything that is 100% fetid bullshit. It’s going to forever be shorthand for “My name is Steve, I’m retired, and I’m a fuckwit”.

It featured at the bottom of what is surely either the worst attempt at satire in forever, or the absolute bottom scrapings of the ‘hate on new parents for no reason’ barrel. For some reason, our national newspaper published the ramblings of some germ with delusions of grandeur who wanted to target two new parents for…um…checking my notes here…giving birth in the same way millions of women give birth.

“Art Green and Matilda Rice’s social media post irresponsible – home births risky” blared the headline to the momentously patronising piece.

For background, Art Green and Matilda Rice had a baby earlier in the week. And they made the grave mistake of saying they had a baby on Instagram and sharing that they had their baby at home. Again, the same way millions upon millions of people have their babies.

If they’d said they gave birth in hospital, that would be fine to this complete stranger who is not a midwife and is too chickenshit to own their opinion because they know it’s ridiculous.

It’s so breathtakingly wrong that I can’t actually pick out the first bit to criticise. It’s a shit sandwich, basically. So I’ll go line by line.

“Now let me get one thing quite clear at the outset – I have no issue with Art Green and #Matootles,”

OK, that’s a weird thing to say before tearing into a new mum and dad publicly. But go ahead Dr Nick.

“What I take massive issue with, however, is when such people trade in sponsoring the latest detox tea for promoting some actually quite dangerous and stupid stuff. Yep, I’m talking about home births.”

So I understand if you’re not following, because that sentence looks like it was written by a stoned 14-year-old who is trying to stretch out their essay another 15 words to meet a word count. To explain what they’re trying to say, they’ve helpfully signposted that the “dangerous and stupid stuff” is home births. Not the fact that our national newspaper published an anonymous opinion piece by a jerk.

Home birth is dangerous, they say, because….OK they don’t say why it is dangerous just that birth is dangerous therefore home birth is dangerous. They clearly do not know much about birth.

“Again, what Art and Matilda choose to do with their own #baby is nobody’s business but their own. Wanna have a homebirth? Go ahead. Do not, however, post on Instagram about how it all went fine.”

So…it’s OK to post on Instagram about your home birth if it went wrong? Sound legit.

“But,” I heard you cry, “women have been doing this since the dawn of time, surely it’s safe to have my baby at home! If #Matootles can do it, so can I.”

Well cherub, were you aware that in the US alone, in the last century maternal mortality rate has declined from a whopping 900 per 100,000 births, to below 15?

Cherub? OK Jordan Peterson, chill the fuck out. Clearly this dude is not a midwife, not just because they know very little about birth. I mean, you’re going to refer to the US here? The country where you go into debt giving birth? The place where the maternal mortality rate has more than doubled from 10.3 per 100,000 live births in 1991 to 23.8 in 2014? The place where over 700 women a year die of complications related to pregnancy each year? The place where two-thirds of those deaths are preventable? A report from the Commonwealth Fund released in December found American women have the greatest risk of dying from pregnancy complications among 11 high-income countries. Is that the place you mean? Just checking.

Totally fine. (Getty Images)

Could it be that the decline in the death rates for both mums and babies during that time is linked to the advent and progress of western medicine?

Home births are not a rejection of western medicine. Anyone who thinks so is simply uninformed. Having a birth at home has excellent outcomes and is a valid choice in New Zealand for women due to our excellent midwifery system (another reason why we should pay midwives properly but that’s another story). In New Zealand we are lucky enough to mostly be able to choose where we birth. Home is the first option listed on the Ministry of Health website. Homebirth is something you can plan for if you’re supported by your midwife. You know midwives? The people who actually know about births as opposed to the person who wrote that hysterical piece designed only to scare women?

The increasing number of women delivering their babies in a safe setting (in hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses) correlating to a declining death rate? Huh? I’m bored. This is too sciencey. Show me more photos of Art Green’s abs please.

Did…did they have some kind of aneurysm here? I’m not sure. Anyway, 59,661 women gave birth in 2017, the most recent year I could find data sets for. Around 3% of these births happened at home. So popular are home births that some birth centres mimic the home environment – no word yet on whether you’re allowed to Instagram those.

“Home birth is a safe choice for many women. Women who have home births use less pain relief and have fewer caesarean sections and forceps than women who give birth in hospital. If you want to know more about this choice talk to your midwife or doctor. At a home birth your midwife will have another midwife there to support you and her during and after the birth. Your midwife will stay with you for at least 2 hours after the birth.”

Do you know where that terrifying home birth propaganda comes from? The Ministry of Health. Yeah. You know, the evidence-based “sciencey” Ministry of Health? Huh? Are you bored yet doctor?

You know what they say about those small centres that replicate home? “Women giving birth in these smaller units also tend to use less pain relief and have fewer caesarean sections and forceps than those who give birth in hospital.” Weird…that seems almost like a good outcome?

But what do I know? I’m not an anonymous doctor who could quite possibly specialise in feet for all we know.

“Even in a pregnancy without complicating factors, the level of risk to mother and baby with home birth is at a level that is unacceptable.” Those aren’t my words. Those are straight out of the statement written by our Australia/New Zealand College of Obstetricians.

Oh Australia? Great example. They’re currently breaking records for their births – the caesarean section rate in Australia has just reached 34% and is one of the highest rates in the developed world. Iceland has the lowest numbers of mothers and babies dying in the world – their rate is 15%. The World Health Organization says the ideal rate of caesarean section is between 10-15 percent. For privately insured mothers in Australia the cesarean rate is 44%. For low-risk women, care in a private hospital, which includes higher rates of intervention, appears to be associated with higher rates of morbidity seen in the neonate and no evidence of a reduction in perinatal mortality. So where is the outrage about using private hospital? Oh there isn’t any – because to do so would be fucking stupid and it would not address any issues women are facing.

In Australia other forms of intervention, including induction of labour, are also high: 25% of mothers had an induced labour in 2007, while a further 20% of all mothers had augmented labour. These obviously come with serious risks, despite many being unavoidable.

Now caesareans are life-saving procedures. But a caesarean section birth is serious abdominal surgery which can result in complications from surgery or anesthesia, increased blood loss, and abdominal organ injury. Repeated caesarean sections for future births add further complications. It can take a long time to recover. There can be ongoing health issues.

Statistics in Australia suggest a first-time mother now has a greater chance of surgical intervention during her birth than of not having it. What is the risk there? Or is it only home birth risk that we care about? Gee it sure sucks to be a mum in 2019.

The UK-based Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says: “There is no reason why home birth should not be offered to women at low risk of complications and it may confer considerable benefits for them and their families. Overall, the literature shows that women have less pain at home and use less pharmacological pain relief, have lower levels of intervention, more autonomy and increased satisfaction.”

What we do know, however, from observational studies, is that having a home birth is associated with higher rates of perinatal death – put more simply, it is more than twice as likely that your baby will die.

If I had a buzzer that sounded every time there was a badly reported study, it’d be going off right now. The study cited talks about unattended and unplanned births. It talks about women who made no plans or planned hospital births but either didn’t make it for whatever reason or accidentally gave birth at home. Neither of these relate to Matilda and Art’s birth or planned home births in New Zealand. The comment that babies are more than twice as likely to die if they’re birthed at home is wrong. Just 100% wrong. Maybe that’s why this doctor wouldn’t put their name to the piece. Or maybe it’s this line:

In the midst of a measles outbreak because people aren’t vaccinating their offspring, it would be a real treat to see somebody promoting actual health literature.

Oh yes, what better place to give birth than in a hospital where there are people with measles. And also yes, it would be good to see someone promoting actual health literature – too bad there was none in that column.

Literature the doctor could have referred to? A just-published systematic review that found no increase in adverse outcomes with planned home birth. Not one meta-analysis, whether a subset analysis or a combined analysis, found an excess of perinatal or neonatal mortality with planned home birth compared with a low-risk hospital population.

A home birth, with a midwife

I could go on, but what’s the point? The piece has been published. A new couple is facing public ridicule and hatred over a valid decision they made. Welcome to parenting. Welcome to pricks on the internet.

Here are the boring facts. Home birth carries risk because it’s a birth. Hospital births carry risk too for different reasons. Birth can be risky and in 2019 we should be doing what we can to address risk no matter the setting – which includes hospital births. Ridiculous anonymous opinion pieces that deny that truth and simplify a very complex issue, while ignoring any studies that don’t fit a false narrative, do not help anyone.

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This kind of simplistic rubbish about birth isn’t just pointless, it’s cruel. Birth is complicated, any approach that singles out and attacks women is not the right approach, ever. The days of misogynistic attacks on birthing women – treating them as if they’re morons incapable of making any decisions about their own bodies – and patronising bullshit by doctors who are not informed about birth are over. Those approaches disempower those giving birth, and they’re dangerous. They should not be tolerated by right-thinking people who believe women matter.

To Matilda and Art: congratulations on the birth of your baby. I gave birth in hospital twice. We both love our babies equally. Where we birth does not change that.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that at a time when you should be surrounded by love you have mean egomaniacs to deal with. I’m sorry that you’re a target for horrible people. But know this, people see through this shit. They really do.

So instead I’ll just say: Welcome to the world, little one. We’ve got your back. And Art and Matilda, and all new parents, we’ve got yours too.


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