Viral Home Birth Video Sparks Delivery Debate

The rise of wellness bloggers is "significantly concerning" to the medical community.

A video currently doing the rounds on social media has once again kicked off the hospital births versus 'natural births' debate.

New Australian mum Jessie Goetze sits in a bathtub at home, back bent in labour and surrounded by flowers. Her husband jumps into the water, and ever-so-quickly a baby slides out. Her tiny child, Mahli, is brought to her chest as the family dog leans in for a curious sniff. In the background, Ed Sheeran plays.

"I knew that if I felt safe and supported in a loving environment, that the birth would be easy," she told the Instagram account Australian Birth Stories, on which her birth has been viewed more than 47,000 times.

"And it was -- easy and pain free."

Jessie's homebirth has been viewed more than 47,000 times on Instagram. Photo: Australian Birth Stories.

But not all home births go so smoothly. Recently, Australian actress and Orange Is The New Black star Yael Stone was rushed into an emergency caesarean after first attempting to deliver her baby at home.

She said that without medical intervention, neither she nor her baby would have survived the birth.

"We laboured at home for 18 hours, hoping to deliver there naturally," she said.

"The first ten hours I felt like a warrior, after that something changed. The next eight hours had me questioning myself, digging deeper than ever before and still not making the progress that our baby needed."

Yael Stone wrote that she felt like a failure when she had to go to hospital, but without medical intervention would not be here. Photo: Instagram.

In a searingly honest Instagram post, she wrote that she felt like a failure when the time came to go to hospital -- but that she was "so incredibly lucky to have that as an option".

After 21 hours of labour, she was rushed for an emergency c-section.

"When our beautiful daughter arrived she needed help to breathe and I needed help stay conscious," she said.

"Without modern medicine and the expertise of the doctors and nurses our baby would not be here, I would not be here."

The rise of wellness bloggers in the Instagram age is deeply concerning, said Dr Tony Bartone, president of the Australian Medical Association.

"At best, their information is misguided and ill-informed, and at worst it's putting the community at serious risk of harm," he told ten daily.

"They're usually people with a significant following on social media, and using that following to try and influence people in areas where they have no specific training, no understanding, and no awareness of the scientific research and literature.

"It's important to remember that medical advice -- information from your treating medical practitioner -- is based on years and decades of research, scientific endeavor, and outcomes-based observations."

He described the Australian Birth Stories video as "concerning on so many levels" thanks to the opportunity for things to go wrong.

In 2012, Caroline Lovell -- an outspoken advocate for home births -- died in hospital after giving birth to her second child at home.

Caroline Lovell died in 2012 from a preventable complication during a home birth. Photo: Facebook.

Four years later, the coroner ruled that her death was preventable. The court heard how she begged for an ambulance, but that Gaye Demanuele, an unregistered midwife, did not realise Lovell had sustained significant blood loss from a post-partum haemorrhage, and instead prescribed a homeopathic "rescue remedy" for anxiety.

As part of the findings, the coroner also suggested a public education campaign for people considering a home birth.

Hannah Dahlen, Professor of Midwifery at Western Sydney University, stressed to ten daily that Goetze's video was showing a free birth, rather than a professional home birth.

"A home birth is attended by a registered midwife or doctor, and there are a whole lot of guidelines and safety measures and equipment that midwifes carry, that make it a very different thing to a 'do-it-yourself' birth," she said.

That includes oxygen, resuscitation equipment, and drugs to stop bleeding.

"The other thing that people need to understand is that when risk deviates, a midwife will transfer women into hospital."

She said that although it would have been nice to see a professional on hand during Goetze's birth, it was clearly a low-risk pregnancy, which resulted in a "beautiful, normal" birth.

She also called for a greater understanding as to why women opt for free births in Australia.

"I think we need to stop accusing, blaming and demonising women, and we've got to think about why women feel that that's the best option for them," she said.

Many women feel traumatised by hospital births, said Hannah Dahlen. Photo: Getty.

There are a number of reasons why women turn their back on the healthcare system, she said, citing more than half a dozen studies undertaken by the college.

Those include a lack of options in mainstream care, a highly medicalised maternity system, and simply not enough midwives in Australia -- there are about 240 -- to meet demand.

There are also women traumatised from previous birth experiences, who then try and avoid mainstream services.

"Let's ask, as health professionals and as maternity care providers, how we can give women more options and start to look in our own backyard at how we can make it better," she said.

After negative coverage of Goetze's birth, blogger Julie Bell -- who described herself as a "radical Christian feminist and radical birth activist" cited a meta-study that found place of birth for low-risk pregnancies had "no statistically significant impact on infant mortality."

But Bartone warned that when things do go wrong, it is far safer for both mum and baby to be in an environment with access to care.

"Study after study after study shows that there can be no doubt that the best place [to give birth] is in an environment where you have ready access to doctors should anything go wrong," he said.

"Obviously the best place for that is in a hospital where you've got have the necessary facilities on hand, should the unexpected or unforeseen happen.

"As unlikely as it is, it can and does occur, often with significant consequences."

Get in contact: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au