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Study reveals conflict between doctors, midwives over homebirth
Date:5/11/2009

CORVALLIS, Ore. Two Oregon State University researchers have uncovered a pattern of distrust and sometimes outright antagonism among physicians at hospitals and midwives who are transporting their home-birth clients to the hospital because of complications.

Oregon State University assistant professor Melissa Cheyney and doctoral student Courtney Everson said their work revealed an ongoing conflict between physicians and midwives that is reflective of discord across the country.

The pair recently examined birth records in Oregon's Jackson County from 1998 through 2003, a period when that county saw higher-than-expected rates of prematurity and low birth weight in some populations. The researchers wanted to assess whether those rates were linked to midwife-attended homebirths.

The findings revealed that assisted homebirths did not appear to be contributing to the lower-than-average health outcomes and, in fact, that the homebirths documented all had successful outcomes. But even more importantly to Cheyney, discussions with doctors and midwives uncovered a deep gulf between the two groups of birthing providers, with doctors expressing the firm belief that only hospital births are safe, while midwives felt marginalized, mocked and put on the defensive when in contact with physicians.

"We've been getting insight into their world view, and it's been quite illuminating," Cheyney said.

Cheyney, who is a practicing midwife in addition to being an assistant professor of medical anthropology and reproductive biology, said she was surprised that physicians, when presented with scientifically conducted research that indicates homebirths do not increase infant mortality rates, still refuse to believe that births outside of the hospital are safe.

"Medicine is a social construct, and it's heavily politicized," she said.

Last year the American Medical Association passed Resolution 205, which states: "the safest
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Contact: Melissa Cheyney
cheyneym@onid.orst.edu
541-737-3895
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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