Where a woman chooses to give birth is hugely personal, and these days most Americans pick one location: A hospital or medical facility. But while a growing segment of births are now occurring at home, a new reality show for Lifetime is set to present a third option — in the great outdoors.
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"Born in the Wild" is a new show in the works that was inspired by a YouTube video of a woman in labor, and giving birth, outdoors that racked up nearly 21 million views. (Note: The whole process is shown on the video.) But while the show has promised to have an ambulance and at least an EMT on site during production in case of an emergency, it's clearly not for everybody.
Births outside the hospital are still very rare, accounting for barely more than 1 percent of all babies delivered in the U.S in 2012., according to a recent government report. But they are on the rise, fueled in part by fears that a natural biological process — birth — has been medicalized to the point of being treated like a disease. Home births are more common among older women (over 35) and women who have already had children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The Business of Being Born," a documentary featuring Ricki Lake from 2008, shook up many perceived notions of where and how a baby should be born, and the popular "Masterpiece" series "Call the Midwife" has spent its three seasons thus far showing how, in a fictionalized setting, home births with trained assistants used to be everyday experiences.
Hospitals are starting to respond to women who want to have more control over the delivery process, Dr. Evelyn Minaya, an OB-GYN from Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey, told TODAY Friday, "People are kind of dissatisfied, at least in the past, with their birth experiences. But I will tell you, hospitals have now really, really changed their birth experiences. They're taking the home into the hospital setting, in which you can sit on the ball, you can bond with your baby, you can latch immediately afterwards. The medicine part of it has (been) taken out with the option of safety."
But she emphasized that doctors are still a necessary component in case things go wrong, and emphasized women coming up with a "birth plan" so they can speak up for what they want once labor begins. "Speak out, say what you want," she said. "You can ask for what you want, as long as you're in a safe environment."
While many doctors argue that women who deliver outside the hospital are putting themselves and their babies at risk — obstructed labor or hemorrhage are among the dangers — the broader medical community has acknowledged the growing number of planned home births. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines for the care of infants born outside a hospital. According to the AAP guidelines, "There should be at least one person present at the delivery whose primary responsibility is the care of the newborn infant and who has the appropriate training, skills and equipment to perform a full resuscitation of the infant."