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Obstetrician: Home birth is not a good idea given the risks involved | READER COMMENTARY

Patty Maizels, and eight-day old son, Reddick Timlin Maizels, who was delivered at home by father Patrick Maizels, with midwife Bayla Berkowitz and birth assistant Nikki Williams of Charm City Midwives in attendance.
Patty Maizels, and eight-day old son, Reddick Timlin Maizels, who was delivered at home by father Patrick Maizels, with midwife Bayla Berkowitz and birth assistant Nikki Williams of Charm City Midwives in attendance. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

During my nearly three-decades career as an obstetrician in the Baltimore area, I have delivered hundreds of children. Some of these are now pregnant with their own babies. I read with great interest your article, “Amid coronavirus, some pregnant Baltimore moms are choosing home over hospitals, spurring debate" (May 10), detailing the rise in the numbers of women seeking home births due to coronavirus concerns. My advice to the vast majority of women contemplating a home-birth? Don’t.

Area hospitals have gone to great lengths to protect pregnant patients and newborns from coronavirus exposure. Although labor is a natural physiologic process and we all want a family-centered birthing experience for our mothers, there are too many things that can go awry at home. Maternal hemorrhage and obstructed labor are just two of the complications that require timely intervention best delivered in the hospital setting. Eight years ago, The Baltimore Sun reported on one of the largest malpractice judgments in Maryland history. The Johns Hopkins Hospital contended that the irreversible brain damage suffered by a baby occurred during the prior stages of labor at the family’s home during an unsuccessful delivery attempt. That mother understandably described her experience of obstructed labor at home as “a real nightmare."

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I am glad that the mother highlighted in the article had a good experience and a healthy outcome. Patty Maizels was an optimal candidate for home-delivery. An athlete who does Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting, she felt confident in her ability to tolerate the substantial pain of labor. She had a history of prior rapid delivery. So it was not surprising that she did well without a pain relieving epidural and was able to deliver her seventh baby within three pushes. Most pregnant moms are not blessed with all of these favorable attributes.

I would offer the following analogy for those families contemplating a home birth: You might allow your family members to ride in the car without a seat belt. Most of the time, there are no negative consequences. However, if you crash, there is a high likelihood of serious injury to yourself or a loved one.

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Moms have made tough sacrifices to continue getting their prenatal care and to try to have the best and healthiest childbirth experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. But to them I say: Please wear a seat belt — and deliver in a hospital.

Dr. Eugene Wu, Sparks

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