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I felt sickened when I heard about the ordeal experienced by Victoria Anderson at the hands of Susan Rose, an Independent Midwife who cared for her during her pregnancy and home birth. A mismanaged pregnancy and birth led to not only health problems for the mother but a life long physical disability for her child.

Sadly the media and commentators have used this case to vilify the practice of homebirth with glib declarations that homebirth is unsafe. Jeremy Vine on his radio show posed the question whether homebirths should be banned and concluded that they were indeed unsafe. That it was the individual midwife who was dangerous, not the practice of homebirth itself, seems to be a concept too tricky to understand. An anecdote has led to sweeping generalisations. The fact is that studies have shown that homebirth is as safe, or safer than hospital birth for low risk women. When a hospital delivery goes wrong due to negligence, incompetence or staff shortages, no-one decrees hospitals to be an unsafe place to birth a child. Yet when a home birth goes wrong there is much wringing of hands and mutterings that a home is not a suitable place for a child to be born. If a hospital birth goes wrong there is sympathy for the mother, if the same happens at home she is often blamed for being selfish or misguided.

I write this not as an ardent pro-homebirther. In fact my children were all born in hospital, in a variety of modes. I have welcomed the numbing bliss of the epidural in equal measure to the euphoria of a drug free birth. Whilst I know homebirth is safe it just wasn’t a personal option for me. I write this weary of the incorrect, alarmist tone the media seems to take today whether it be because they are too lazy to research an informed opinions or in their strive for sensationalist headlines and snappy soundbites. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, this story isn’t about the unsafe practice of homebirth but the unsafe practises of this particular midwife. In fact if you read the story carefully the error was in her antenatal care where gestational diabetes was undetected and this triggered the cascade of events leading to this tragedy.

For many women homebirth is a reasonable option; scaremongering and incorrect reporting and distorted emphasis should not set the tone. If I was a mother trying to decide where to give birth to my child reading some of the commentary of this case would scare me witless. The tragedy of this case is not just the physical and emotional damage inflicted upon this mother and her baby but that scaremongering and sloppy journalism may also damage the concept of homebirth per se, a choice which for the majority of women is a safe and valid option.

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