Here's the thing: Over 96 percent of American mums still choose to give birth in a hospital. However, about one percent of women in the U.S. — typically those who are over age 35 and those who have already had a child — are opting for home births. The number is small but the trend is growing, and a new series on Lifetime is capitalizing on the concept but launching a reality show that's all about giving birth outdoors.
The series, called "Born in the Wild," is inspired by a YouTube video of a woman who goes through labour and gives birth outdoors; it went viral and it racked up 21 million views. Women featured on the series will labour and deliver their babies on their own, in the wild.
That's right — in the wilderness, with no epidurals, no clean sheets, and no medical team.
It's not surprising that the show is already stirring up controversy even before it's scheduled to air. However, producers insist that they're taking safety precautions. No first-time mothers are allowed to participate and all that do must have a clean bill of health. The couple can choose the birthing location, but it must remain within a certain radius of a hospital in case complications arise. And producers have promised to have an ambulance and an EMT on site in case of an emergency.
Many experts say that women who deliver outside of a hospital setting are putting themselves and their babies at risk with obstructed labour and hemorrhage among the potential dangers. They insist that doctors are a necessary component in case things go wrong, and hospitals have been working to change the birth experience in response to the growing number of women who want more control over their own delivery.
"People are kind of dissatisfied with their birth experience, but hospitals are changing," Dr. Evelyn Minaya, an OB-GYN from Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey, told Today. "They are bringing the home into a hospital setting." She advises women to speak up, reminding them that, "You can ask for what you want as long as you're in a safe environment."
The broader medical community has acknowledged a growing number of home births, and in 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines for the care of infants born outside of a hospital setting. "There should be at least one person present at the delivery whose primary responsibility is care of the newborn infant," according to the guidelines. "That person should have the appropriate skills, training and equipment to perform a full resuscitation of the infant if necessary."
No word yet on when the show will air. Will you watch it when it does?