I'm writing today in response to your segment titled "The perils of Midwifery" (later changed to "Home Birth". I was extremely disappointed by the biased, incomplete, and exploitative reporting done in this segment.
I'm due to deliver my second baby at home in a few weeks. I chose this option because of my desire for the safest birth possible. Period. To represent my choice as "trendy", or foolhardy, is to insult my intelligence, and insult the hundreds of thousands of women around the globe who choose to be midwives, support homebirth, or give birth at home themselves.
While I sympathize with the couple who tragically lost their child, and can't comment on Cara Muhlhahn's competence, I do know that your report left out a multitude of facts:
1. Caesarian section increases the rate of maternal and infant death. Even in the best-case scenario, it combines major surgery with caring for a newborn and (for first-time mothers) learning to breast-feed. Avoiding an unneccessary caesarian is a completely rational, safe choice. It's not about pursuing a "hedonistic" spa treatment, or about imitating celebrities.
2. The WHO recommends that caesarian rates be at about 10% for all birth. Currently, the national average is 30% and rising. At some hospitals, it exceeds 50%. This means babies and mothers are _dying_ unnecessarily in the US. Perhaps this would be a good topic for a Today show expose.
3. Women have been giving birth without medication, at home, since the beginning of time. While I thank God for the advances in obstetrical care that save those mothers whose births are high-risk, and am happy for those mothers who chose pain medications without experiencing some of their possible side-effects, characterizing home birth as "extreme" is like saying sex in your bedroom at home is "extreme". In fact, this is the way we've done it for millennium.
4. Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that Ms. Muhlhahn's care was incompetent. That says nothing about the safety and efficacy of home birth. You might as well say that one bad obstetrician makes it unsafe to give birth in any hospital. If you did say this, I'm guessing the ACOG might sue for libel. Do you pick on midwives because they don't have the political clout and the $$ to keep you honest?
5. Just this year, two high-quality studies have come out, comparing home birth outcomes to low-risk hospital births. You can find the results summarized here: http://www.
6. Nowhere in your segment did you mention the ACOG's possible conflict of interest in speaking about home birth. By definition, a birth attended by a midwife is not attended by an ACOG member. Perhaps the organization's leadership might be biased?
7. In many other countries (the Netherlands and the UK, to name just two), midwifery care is the gold standard for birth. These countries have lower rates of infant mortality than we do. Even if that correlation isn't attributable to the midwifery model of care (which would surprise me), having midwives attend births sure isn't hurting anything.
Finally, and less factually, it irked me that the two journalists presenting and introducing the segment (Matt Lauer and the journalist himself) were both men. At least have someone actually qualified to speak about labor and delivery report about it.
For too long, women have been forced to shut up and submit passively to a system that does not value their voices, their intelligence, and their ability to choose wisely for themselves and their children. Your report just demonstrates how little headway our country has made.
Frankly, I am disgusted that you would exploit this couple's tragedy to present such a biased, incomplete report. You've used the loss of their child to sensationalize and twist a powerful, humane, and life-affirming experience. It shocks me that Today, which I've been watching since grade school, would have such low standards for their journalists. I urge you to apologize to the midwives and mothers throughout America that you have insulted and, frankly, libeled.