Leah Rettenmaier, from Byron Bay, is to give birth to her fourth child at home in less than three weeks because she says it is a safer option than travelling to the Lismore or Tweed hospitals. Ms Retttenmaier says she advocates choice when it comes to childbirth.
Leah Rettenmaier, from Byron Bay, is to give birth to her fourth child at home in less than three weeks because she says it is a safer option than travelling to the Lismore or Tweed hospitals. Ms Retttenmaier says she advocates choice when it comes to childbirth. Cathy Adams

New furore erupts over home births

THE medical establishment says it is dangerous, but Leah Rettenmaier says that, for her, giving birth at home is safer than rushing to a hospital 50 minutes away while in labour.

Ms Rettenmaier, of Byron Bay, expects to give birth at home for the fourth time in a little under three weeks – just as a new controversy erupts following the release of a disputed South Australian study that questions the safety of homebirths.

The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, claims babies were more likely to die from preventable complications during homebirths. In particular, the rep-ort finds the rate of asphyxia during homebirth is 27 times that of hospital births.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr Ted Weaver said the study – which also found the overall death rate in planned homebirths was slightly lower than in hospital births – ‘raises again significant concerns about the safety of homebirths’.

However, Ms Rettenmaier said a homebirth supervised by an experienced midwife was a safer option for her than trying to reach the Lismore or Tweed hospitals and potentially giving birth in the car.

Besides, giving birth at home, surrounded by yourfamily, was natural, she said.

“There are thousands of babies born everywhere, every few seconds a new baby is born,” she said. “It’s a natural process; we’re not meant to be tricked up on drugs.”

Ms Rettenmaier said she was not an advocate of homebirths, but she was an advocate of choice and a woman’s right to choose, safely and with support, where she wanted to have her baby.

Homebirth midwife Lynne Austin said she and her colleagues at the Natural Birth Education and Research Centre at Alstonville practised under strict criteria laid out by the Australian College of Midwives.

Under those guidelines, only very low-risk births were delivered at home and complications as minor as breach births or twins were referred to hospital.

“Our five-year statistics show no difference in births we have done compared to hospital ... and no morbidity or mortality,” she said.

Ms Austin said one complicating factor in the safety of homebirths was an ‘antagonistic’ attitude to the practice taken by the medical establishment.

However, Northern Rivers women had the luxury of living in an area where – more than elsewhere in the country – homebirths were generally accepted by the medical profession.



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