Oregon State professor of medical anthropology and reproductive health Melissa Cheyney recently wrote an op-ed piece on the great divide between how home births and hospital births are perceived in the U.S.
It’s clearly a hot-button issue, because her op-ed got picked up by the Huffington Post blog, and is generating hundreds of comments by readers.
Cheyney wrote the piece in response to a new analysis by Dr. Joseph Wax comparing home births and hospital births, which was published in the recent issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Cheyney says that Wax’s conclusions are misleading, and also drive a wedge between two groups that cannot afford a greater divide: medical doctors and midwives.
Cheyney for years has studied and written about the mechanisms that perpetuate the “home/hospital divide.” Her work has led her to support an “integrated medicine” approach to birth that recognizes the benefits of weaving together traditional birthing practices and newer biomedical techniques. It’s an approach drawn from deep familiarity: Her research includes the wide-ranging Oregon Midwives Study, a key part of a larger, nationwide prospective project that is examining 100 variables for each birth and that will have a sample size of nearly 20,000 deliveries by the end of its current data collection cycle.
“The power of socialization and the dominance of biomedicine have kept us from systematically examining a variety of birthing environments and providers as viable alternatives to the expensive and interventive hospital delivery that has become the norm in the U.S.,” she wrote.