Out-of-hospital births are still not common. According to NPR, 99 percent of American women decide not to have their baby at home or in a free-standing birth center. But slowly, more and more women are making the choice to give birth somewhere outside a labor and delivery unit.
Some critics believe that these births are far more risky and envision women giving birth with little or no medical support or care. The reality is different. Educated women are making informed choices about how they give birth, who supports them, and where they welcome their baby into the world. Midwives follow strict parameters to determine if a client is a suitable fit for a home or birth center birth. When low-risk birthing people work with skilled care providers, out-of-hospital birth can be safe for baby and better for mom.
As a birth photographer based in Denver, Colorado, I've photographed almost 70 out-of-hospital births. I've watched midwives support women with a skillful grace that is sometimes lacking in a traditional hospital setting. Watchful, observant, and ready to move with skill and speed if a birth necessitates it, these midwives and home-birth providers walk a delicate line. These providers are also skilled at recognizing "yellow flags" that alert them to potential problems. I've seen several transfers occur, but they are always done well before an emergency happens.
And then when it comes to how a mother feels and acts in an out-of-hospital birth, the difference is often striking. My clients have told me that when allowed to move about in a calm and peaceful environment, often their homes, they are able to relax and enjoy her labor in a way that many women in a hospital setting find difficult. These images illustrate the incredible beauty and joy that is so often seen in an out-of-hospital birth.
We all must remember that it's only in recent years that births have moved from the home to the hospital. Perhaps out-of-hospital births seem like a trend, but in reality, hospital birth are the more recent cultural phenomenon. The term of out-of-hospital birth is used as if these women are choosing something "outside of what's normal" but when we consider history, they are simply returning to what has always been done.