Community Birth

By February 15, 2019 No Comments

There is power in words.  How we frame our conversations, how we pronounce or emphasize certain terms, even how we translate other people’s words can have impact on our relationships and culture. A quick example: recently, my 22 year old son told me he was “down to go out to eat”, I had just said asked if he was “up for getting dinner”.  It took me a minute to realize we both were saying the same thing with the exact opposite word!

The authors of an article recently published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, Community vs Out-of-Hospital-Birth: What’s in a Name?, have asserted this point in their call to rethink our words to describe planned home and birth center birth. They assert that a term that describes the practice in reference to what it isn’t fails to adequately describe what it is.

Some who resist the term out‐of‐hospital have argued that it reifies hospital birth as normative and community birth as other, marginal, or alternative. Here we propose community birth as a preferable term because it labels the practice for what it is—instead of for what it is not.”

Cheney et. al. go on to point out other terms that are routinely utilized that tend to mischaracterize the intention and conclusion of community birth. Specifically the term “failure” as in “failed home birth”, “failed induction” and “failure to progress”.

“..the language of failure, and specifically the use of the term failed home birth, contributes to the misconception that transfers to specialized personnel or facilities are a type of adverse outcome or morbidity, when in fact they are an important indicator of effective primary care and appropriate triage. Health systems do not describe women who transfer from rural or smaller hospitals to referral or tertiary hospitals as community hospital failures, nor are referrals to maternal‐fetal medicine specialists referred to as primary care failures.”

Midwives, Doulas and Birthing Families- What do you think?  Are we ready to reframe the name?


Full Article Citation: Cheyney, M. , Bovbjerg, M. L., Leeman, L. and Vedam, S. (2019), Community Versus Out‐of‐Hospital Birth: What’s in a Name?. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 64: 9-11. doi:10.1111/jmwh.12947

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