Actress Lake Bell is sharing her home birth stories — and they're not for the faint of heart.
Bell, 40, told her story on the podcast "Armchair Expert," hosted by Dax Shepherd, her co-star on the sitcom "Bless This Mess." The actress and mother of two shared new details about the beginning of her children's lives.
Her firstborn, Nova, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 2014, in an experience that Bell called an "amazing primal bonding." The actress added that her daughter was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, and wasn't breathing.
"It was very scary. She was on my chest, and she wasn't breathing," Bell said. "The midwife gave her three lifesaving breaths on my chest and my husband was there. She came to life and we saw it."
Bell said that Nova's birth made her feel "empowered," and when she was pregnant with her son, Ozgood, in 2017, she decided to once again have a home birth. This time, the family was in Los Angeles.
"I was like, 'He’s alive,' and then I just passed out."
"We had him at home," she said. "I was huge, he was 11 pounds. The same thing happened, I was at home and he had the (umbilical) cord wrapped around and he was on my chest. He was not coming to. Now you're in really f---ing life and death. Your child is there, and the entire room is trying to resuscitate him, and they can't."
Bell said that paramedics eventually arrived and cut the cord to separate mother and baby so they could attempt to revive him. She had to be induced to birth the placenta, and it wasn't until afterwards that she received an update on Ozgood's (nicknamed Ozzy) condition.
"I was looking at my phone as they were sewing me up and I get a little video from (husband) Scott: little Ozzy just barely taking breaths with the oxygen mask," she said. "I just passed out. Because I was like, 'He’s alive,' and then I just passed out."
The newborn spent eleven days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Because Ozzy had been without oxygen for more than four minutes, his family and medical staff were worried about life-long complications.
"We were told that he could (have) cerebral palsy or never walk or talk. That was our reality," Bell said. However, Bell said that he developed well and hit milestones "early," starting walking at nine months.
Are home births safe?
Experts warn that home births may not always be the safest option, especially in communities that do not have certified nurse midwives or appropriate personnel to attend home births.
"The biggest thing is that it's not for every patient," said Suzanne Shores, a certified nurse midwife and family nurse practioner, and the division chief of midwifery at the University of Pittsburgh's Medical Center (UPMC). "It's really about the right patient, and the right provider. In communities that don't have the availability of the right provider, it's just not an option."
While Bell did not specify what "type" of midwife she had monitoring her home birth, Shores said it's important to make sure that a patient's provider has the right qualifications.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) warns against home births.
"Although planned home birth is associated with fewer maternal interventions than planned hospital birth, it is also associated with a more than two-fold increased risk of perinatal death," said the ACOG in a statement. "[There is] a three-fold increased risk of neonatal seizures or serious neurological dysfunction."
The Mayo Clinic recommends that women speak to their health care provider about the signs and symptoms that might require a hospital transfer. According to their site, home births will ideally be within 15 minutes of a hospital, with transportation available, in case of complications.
Shores added that the cord being wrapped around the neck isn't unusual — in fact, it happens to about one-third of babies during birth — but said that children with a high birth weight, like Ozzy, might be at higher risk.