Two Oregon State University researchers have uncovered a pattern of distrust - and sometimes outright antagonism - among physicians at hospitals and midwives who are transporting their home-birth clients to the hospital because of complications.
Oregon State University assistant professor Melissa Cheyney and doctoral student Courtney Everson said their work revealed an ongoing conflict between physicians and midwives that is reflective of discord across the country.
Cheyney calls medicine a politicized social construct.
“Medicine is a social construct, and it’s heavily politicized,” she said.
Last year the American Medical Association passed Resolution 205, which states: “the safest setting for labor, delivery and the immediate post-partum period is in the hospital, or a birthing center within a hospital complex…” The resolution was passed in direct response to media attention on home births, the AMA stated.
What is interesting, Cheyney points out, is that 99 percent of American births occur in the hospital, but the United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates of any developed country, with 6.3 deaths per 1,000 babies born. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, where a third of deliveries occur in the home with the assistance of midwives, has a lower rate of 4.73 deaths per 1,000.
Cheyney, who has collaborated with anthropologist Robbi Davis-Floyd in the past, is working with a supportive physician on drafting guidelines.
She is working with Lane County obstetrician Dr. Paul Qualtere-Burcher to draft guidelines that would help midwives and their clients decide when they need to seek medical help, based in large part on Cheyney’s research, and another that would ask physicians to recognize midwives as legitimate caregivers.