Homebirth Rally – how it all went

emd 9 September 2009 73

I did mention in comments on a previous story that I would write a review on the Homebirth Rally today, and here it is. You can also find the ABC News Online story here.

The rally kicked off at 10:45am with an indigenous welcome ceremony at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy at Old Parliament House, led by Aunty Isobell Coe, and indigenous birth advocate Fleur Magick. The crowd then marched up to the lawns of Parliament House – a colourful and noisy parade of brightly dressed mums, dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, children, and midwifery students carrying banners.

The rally proper started at 11:30am. With a crowd estimated to be between 2,000 and 4,000 people (depending on who your news source is), there was no way I could hear the speeches. But the crowd certainly seemed appreciative, and I did catch a bit of a gutsy rendition of “I Will Survive” towards the end of the speeches. Here’s some YouTube of Rachel Siewert’s speech (Greens)

Despite the rain and cold, the crowd were fantastic! I’ve been to a few protest rallies in my time, and the atmosphere today was cooperative, supportive, and friendly – unlike anything I’ve experienced before at a rally. I literally walked around all day with a big grin on my face, meeting people who had flown to Canberra from Perth and Darwin and Brisbane, caught buses from Melbourne, driven down from Newcastle and Sydney, and taken their lunch break from Canberra offices to be there for the event.

A few highlights from the event for me, as I wandered around meeting up with friends and trying to stay out of the rain:
* Meeting Susan Stark, founder of Natural Parenting.
* Seeing so many mums at the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s baby feed & change tent. We organised this knowing that it would be unworkable for thousands of women and babies to go through Parliament House security to access toilets or somewhere to sit out of the weather and feed a baby.
* Anthea from Real Chai said she’s never sold so many cups of chai in one day! Bec from Funky Brew was also there to do coffee.
* Seeing a wider variety of baby slings in one place than I could ever imagine possible!
* Hearing Kerrie Tucker talk about the wonderful experience her friends had home birthing their babies in the 1970’s.
* Finally meeting the most rocking roller derby chick in Australia, visiting from Brisbane for the rally.

I got soaked pulling the tents down after the event, and I didn’t have time to eat until dinner tonight, but it will all be worth it if Nicola Roxon gets the message. Photos to come when I can get hold of them.


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73 Responses to Homebirth Rally – how it all went
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Overheard Overheard 12:28 pm 14 Sep 09

Nice, well-written story, emd. And obviously one that’s generated and developed much discussion. Cheers.

Igglepiggle Igglepiggle 5:13 pm 13 Sep 09

emd- I would be interested to know where you source your NZ statistics seeing as NZ only reconvened their perinatal death committee on 1st july 2006 for the first time in just under a decade and they are only just now drafting the first maternal mortality report which is awaited with interest. One if the major criticisms of the NZ model of care is that complete audit and reporting was left by the wayside when it was implemented and is only just being established now. The perinatal committee is still struggling to get information on all deaths.

Apart from that, the my body ,my baby, my choice comment was excellent.

I-filed I-filed 5:09 pm 13 Sep 09

emd said :

i-filed – go look at the stats in NZ, where 80% of births are under the primary care of a midwife and 6% are home births. They have 0.83 incidents per 10,000 births. In Australia, we have 11 incidents per 10,000 births in a system that is very much obstetrician-led care, with less than 1% home births. Or look at the CMAJ study that came out this month – in a country with lots of remote area births and an indigenous community whose cultural rights are respected, they still have fewer incidents with home birth than hospital birth.

But emd the “fewer incidents with home birth than hospital birth” doesn’t illustrate your point does it? Those hospital birth incidents would include high-riskers screened away from home birth. You would need to quote a comparison between low-risk births in hospital and low-risk births at home. ???

Granny Granny 5:05 pm 13 Sep 09

“The World Health Organisation has released a statement supporting the right of women to choose where they give birth. In the case of low-risk pregnancies, with appropriate support and contingency plans women can give birth at home.”

In the UK:

“Both the RCM (Royal College of Midwives) and the RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) support home births where there are no expected complications.”

Home birth, Wikipedia

emd emd 2:25 pm 13 Sep 09

GnT said :

Sorry but I have to disagree – as a taxpayer funding the health system I get a say, and as a member of society concerned about the welfare of voiceless little babies I get a say too. I acknowldge that my say is less than that of the woman giving birth, but we do not live in a world where everybody is entitled to make limitless choices regarding their bodies and babies.

Your say is absolutely less than that of the mother whose body and baby are on the line. As I have said previously, women who choose home birth do so because they have thoroughly researched, and believe in, staying home with a qualified midwife as the safest option in their specific circumstances. And the next time you get all distressed about your taxpayer dollars, have a think about non-medically indicated elective caesareans. Another minority choice, but one that comes with a 6 x higher risk of death to the mother, 5 x higher risk of breathing difficulties for the baby, and cost to the taxpayer between $5K and $19K depending on your ob. Whereas homebirth is still almost 100% consumer funded (we just want it to be legal by allowing private midwives to pay for medical indemnity insurance like other care providers do), and costs consumers up to $5K at most.

i-filed – go look at the stats in NZ, where 80% of births are under the primary care of a midwife and 6% are home births. They have 0.83 incidents per 10,000 births. In Australia, we have 11 incidents per 10,000 births in a system that is very much obstetrician-led care, with less than 1% home births. Or look at the CMAJ study that came out this month – in a country with lots of remote area births and an indigenous community whose cultural rights are respected, they still have fewer incidents with home birth than hospital birth.

I-filed I-filed 12:55 pm 13 Sep 09

I was in the UK where homebirth was very much the thing in the 1990s. Sadly, a mum-to-be in my neighbourhood who attended very high-profile prenatal classes had a stillbirth at home that would have been a live birth if in hospital. The woman concerned had had pre-birth screening and was definitely in the low-risk category. Homebirth is statistically safe, but that won’t comfort the individual who has to live with the consequences of a birth gone wrong. I’d be opting for hospital as still the surest option for a low-risk birther. I think the stats on natal death across equivalent risk categories have to be lower in hospital, surely. I stand to be corrected on that …

GnT GnT 11:40 am 13 Sep 09

Sorry but I have to disagree – as a taxpayer funding the health system I get a say, and as a member of society concerned about the welfare of voiceless little babies I get a say too. I acknowldge that my say is less than that of the woman giving birth, but we do not live in a world where everybody is entitled to make limitless choices regarding their bodies and babies.

Granny Granny 10:45 pm 12 Sep 09

Word!

astrojax astrojax 6:34 pm 12 Sep 09

unless it is your body and your baby, it is not your choice to make.

the thread encapsulated in a phrase! and it took us 64 goes!! ; ) listen up, word to minister roxon.

emd emd 10:16 pm 11 Sep 09

astrojax said :

there is of course a more pressing issue, emd, which to date you have singularly failed to address – where did you all go out to dinner?? ; )

Most of the people with children had a BBQ where they were staying, the rest went to Debacle which was quite nice 🙂

I-filed said :

In Australia, along with excellent traditional breastfeeding practices, hospital births have been quite civilised compared to the US, all along. So I question whether there was ever much of a need for a home birth “movement” here in Australia.

Some of the “Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital Initiative” hospitals could be improved when it comes to breastfeeding practices. Signing up to a program is no guarantee of policies being adhered to.

As for the home birth movement, clearly some women really do believe that home birth is a better outcome for both mother and baby. Having a home birth is not just about an atmosphere befitting such a major life event – for many women, it’s also about reducing unnecessary medical interventions that come with side effects and can lead to further interventions and negative health effects. It is a choice made with the safety and wellbeing of both mother and baby as primary concern. You don’t have to agree with the choice, just respect that unless it is your body and your baby, it is not your choice to make.

astrojax astrojax 10:08 pm 11 Sep 09

i don’t think, i-filed, the prospect – even near ubiquity – of beautiful [low stress] birth experiences in hospital is at question, nor is home birth only possible in a [perhaps misguided] hippy tree-hugging kind of context (nor denying that even this choice is fraught with possibility of disappointment), rather that the choice to pursue the path the parents deem to be their choice is a real choice open to them if that’s what they want.

(and this from an expectant father looking forward, very soon, to the excellent facilities he has seen at qbyn maternity…)

i just still wanna know where emd took three thousand midwives out to dinner the night before! ; )

I-filed I-filed 5:09 pm 11 Sep 09

I don’t have a problem with home birth in principle, or with there being an argument and a solution needed about indemnity – but it worries me that the focus of the politicised home birth movement is all on the birth and not the baby. Hospital birth can be low-stress – it’s the warmth and personalities of the birthing team that counts over and above every other consideration. A friend of mine had a horrendous “hippy, alternative” home birth (in another state). Passive-aggressive midwife, husband who couldn’t cope. Australians should keep in mind that much of the anti-hospital-birth movement arose from the dreadful, alienating American practices (swathing the mother in green drapes etc). Those practices never happened here. In Australia, along with excellent traditional breastfeeding practices, hospital births have been quite civilised compared to the US, all along. So I question whether there was ever much of a need for a home birth “movement” here in Australia.

astrojax astrojax 4:57 pm 11 Sep 09

there is of course a more pressing issue, emd, which to date you have singularly failed to address – where did you all go out to dinner?? ; )

housebound housebound 4:49 pm 11 Sep 09

Qbn Gal said :

There is a Birth Centre planned for the new Women and Children’s Hospital with two more rooms. However as I understand it, the BC will be on the 3rd Floor just down the corridor from the Delivery Suite because the ground floor will be for Paediatrics ( to give them access to the outside courtyards).

Last year the rumour was that the new hospital would deliver no new maternity beds – but a lot more office space. Even worse, the rumour was that ‘normal’ births (not just those in the birthing centre) would have to leave within 24 hours, and c-sections would get an overnight stay at most. I really hope the rumour is wrong.

chewy14 chewy14 3:07 pm 11 Sep 09

No couldn’t be emd.
I was there and personally counted every person.
There was only 2654 people present.
You should put your faith in my accurate count.

emd emd 2:03 pm 11 Sep 09

Update: Australian Federal Police official estimate of rally attendees was 3,000. Much better than the “over 2,000” that ABC reported (and I’d put more faith in the AFP count than ABC’s guess).

emd emd 1:12 pm 11 Sep 09

sb14 said :

Feathergirl – I think we all realise we want the same thing – better choice for birthing mothers, we just don’t necessarily agree on where that is best delivered.

Actually, I’m not sure that there is agreement here. Where maternity services are delivered is the crux of what homebirth advocates really want – at home. Better choice for them cannot be delivered in any form of hospital environment, because they don’t want to go there. Full stop. It is their choice, and their right, to not go to hospital. So let’s not make it worse by making it illegal for a midwife to attend the birth outside the hospital setting. It will cost taxpayers less, and the NZ model and the CMAJ study published recently show that there are fewer incidents of death or permanent injury and much less medical intervention involved.

What we need is a range of models of care so that people can go with what works best for them, rather than trying to change their needs to fit what’s on offer. Having nice rooms in the new WCH with continuity of carer is nice, but we’ll still need a birth centre with a natural birth philosophy for those women who want that choice. Hospital birth with caseload midwifery (and I’m not sure that the new WCH maternity ward is going to offer caseload, but that’s what many women want) doesn’t equate with a complete natural birth philosophy.

sb14 sb14 6:23 pm 10 Sep 09

sepi – I iamagine contacting the birth centre and asking in what way you could help would be most productive.

astrojax – its a sad reality that legal issues are a big part of medical practice these days. Thats not the fault of the medical profession, it was thrust upon them by a litigious society. I suspect as soon as a mother or baby runs into any sort of trouble, the push would be to do the “safest” thing and move to a caesarian. A doctor that tries to “ride it out” with bad outcome to either mum or bub would most likely get torn to shreds by a decent lawyer.

Feathergirl – I think we all realise we want the same thing – better choice for birthing mothers, we just don’t necessarily agree on where that is best delivered.

GnT – you’ve hit the nail on the head. I once remarked to a midwife in the “normal hospital system” how beautiful the rooms in the birth centre are, and what a great environment they are for families. Her reply was that she didn’t understand why those sort of facilities weren’t available to all women. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We are building a new hospital – a new model of care with world leading facilities can be created if there is enough ground swell.

To all the expecting mums and dads – here’s wishing you an awesome experience and a happy, healthy bub – regardless of where they are born.

Qbn Gal Qbn Gal 3:31 pm 10 Sep 09

There is a Birth Centre planned for the new Women and Children’s Hospital with two more rooms. However as I understand it, the BC will be on the 3rd Floor just down the corridor from the Delivery Suite because the ground floor will be for Paediatrics ( to give them access to the outside courtyards).

It takes a special kind of midwife to be prepared to be on call 24/7 as the girls at the BC are, and we should give them all the support we can. I am grateful to them for the wonderful service they have given me and we should let the government know what we think of this necessary option for birthing.

GnT GnT 3:28 pm 10 Sep 09

The problem with the birth centre is not just that it’s hard to get in. They won’t touch higher risk births, so some women have no choice but to give birth in hospital. Things that the birth centre offers, in particular continuity of care by a midwife you know and trust, and a comfortable ‘home-like’ environment, should be offered through the normal hospital system to all birthing women.

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