Hundreds of mums reject hospitals in local homebirth craze
MORE women are choosing to give birth at home in our region than in any other according to a private midwife who has specialised in delivering babies in Southern Downs homes for 15 years.
Performing 50 homebirths a year in Toowoomba and the Southern Downs, Sonya Beutel said the region had one of the highest rates of homebirths per capita.
"I have 12 filing cabinets all chockers full of case files," she said.
"I have done hundreds of them."
Continuity of care and a lack of confidence in the public health system are major reasons driving the unconventional decision.
Ms Beutel described a medical system that left some women feeling scared, unprepared and powerless over their own bodies.
"We've forgotten about the emotional side of birth," Ms Beutel said.
"If we don't consider that, we are not really supporting the woman to engage with their baby and their birth in a way that is good."
Ms Beutel left hospitals after 13 years to become a private midwife, saying she felt the public system didn't support midwives to provide the level of care women needed in childbirth. "You were trying to provide care to six or more women at one time," she said.
"You couldn't just actually be with the woman and provide support for her."
A number of mothers said the hospital birth experience took comfort out of women's lives when they needed it most.
Stanthorpe mother Sam Palmer gave birth to her first child in a hospital, and it wasn't what she expected.
"I assumed I would have had my own midwife but that got completely blown out of the water for my first birth and it wasn't an ideal birth," she said.
For her second child, Ms Palmer decided to engage Ms Beutel as her private midwife and planned to give birth at home.
"I got the continuity of care right from the beginning and learnt more in my first hour with Sonya than I ever had before."
Ms Palmer said working with Ms Beutel left her feeling confident someone could speak and act on her behalf if complications arose during labour.
But the decision to give birth at home is criticised by many.
"Even the doctors in this country have this really archaic idea of what it is like," Ms Beutel said.
As a private midwife, she encounters countless problems trying to engage with a system that is not supportive of alternative birthing strategies.
"Women are actually getting less of a say about their bodies because the government is trying to risk-manage everything.
"The doctors feel they are responsible, but they're not. We (midwives) have our own insurance and we accept the risk."
With a focus on the biological risks, emotional factors are overlooked in the medical obstetrics model, she said.
"It does seem more and more I see people who have issues about the way they were treated and cared for and the lack of emotional support."
Ms Beutel said private midwives were placed under intense levels of scrutiny that ensured a high level of skill and professionalism.
"We have clinical skills that we have to update every year, we do training and we get audited.
"We are put under the microscope constantly; more than any other profession that I know of does."
Mothers who chose homebirth said the reality could not be more different to what most people imagined.
"When you're at home it feels safe and quiet and your body can do what it is meant to do," Stanthorpe midwife and homebirth advocate Rebecca Telfer said.
The experience left her feeling empowered and set her up for the early months of motherhood.
Stanthorpe mother Leah Furness said the family atmosphere made childbirth a special experience.
"Everyone was there. I was surrounded by people who respect and support me," she said.
"You can do what you like, you can go for a walk if you want, you can be in the water.
"It felt so normal, it just feels like a part of life."
But mothers aren't the only converts to the natural birth trend.
"My husband didn't want a homebirth at first but after our first he said he would never go back to a hospital," said Stanthorpe mother Anna Rub.
"I think sometimes men feel just as powerless as women in a hospital. They hate seeing you in pain and becoming more distressed."
Ms Beutel would like improvements in the relationship between hospitals and private midwives and acknowledged there have been improvements.
"Stanthorpe has been an amazing facility to work with," she said.
"It has been very women-focused and the doctors have been really supportive.
"But there are some hospitals in our district that will not engage. They are just anti-home birth - they don't want to engage."
Darling Downs director of nursing Rural-Southern Matthew Boyd said midwives and obstetricians at Southern Downs hospitals shared information about every maternity case at a weekly multidisciplinary team meeting to ensure all staff were up-to-date on each patient.
"This allows all the maternity staff to be across each woman's case and history on any presentation," he said.
Mr Boyd also noted a $1.1 million upgrade to the birthing suite at the Stanthorpe hospital in 2014.
"The two state-of-the art birthing suites feature ensuites, telehealth capabilities, a pool to aid mothers with pain relief during labour and a more homely atmosphere."