A Look at Unattended Home Birth

Many women elect to have a home birth, attended by a midwife, birth doula, or similar type of supportive assistant. There is also a growing trend where women consciously elect to have a truly unattended home birth. 

The news media is replete with stories of women who go into labor at home and lack the time to get to the hospital. Finally, when it comes to home births, there are situations in which women in California and across the United States have an unexpected unattended home birth.

The Incidence of Unattended Home Birth in the United States

A research study was undertaken in the United States from 2007 to 2012 that examined the unattended home birth rate in the United States. During this time period, there were a total of 24,600,409 births in the United States. 140,912 were home births. Nearly 30 percent of all home births were unattended. In fact, the number of unattended home births in the country increased almost 80 percent during this time period, from 4,926 in 2007 to 8,822 in 2012.

A yet to be determined percentage of home births were not only unattended, but unexpected. For the purposes of the analysis of unattended home birth data, unexpected is not defined as a premature labor. Rather, unexpected unattended home birth is one in which for whatever reason a woman was unaware she was pregnant. The neonatal and infant mortality rates are notably higher following an unattended birth of all types.

At the conclusion of this initial round of research, the researchers announced that further research was necessary to better understand the underlying causes of unexpected unattended births. In addition, the researchers noted that an assessment of appropriate interventions is necessary to lower the incident of these types of births.

How can a Woman Not Know She is Pregnant?

As implausible as it may seem, in the case of about one in 2,500 pregnancies, a woman doesn’t realize she is pregnant until she goes into labor or until she actually begins to deliver. There exists a medical term for this condition: cryptic pregnancy.

There are eight primary reasons underpinning a cryptic pregnancy. These reasons why a woman many not know she is pregnant are:

  • Overweight and the pregnancy weight gain isn’t noticeable
  • Inaccuracy of home pregnancy tests
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Minimal pregnancy related symptoms
  • Baby barely moves in the womb
  • Being diagnosed with infertility
  • Stress and denial
  • Preexisting psychiatric disorder

Mental Health Issues and Unexpected Unattended Births

Professionals involved in ongoing research regarding unexpected, unattended births anticipate ultimately finding that a considerable percentage of women who don’t know they are pregnant suffer from an emotional issue associated with the pregnancy or have a preexisting psychiatric disorder.

Stress associated with the possibility of being pregnant may result in a woman entering into a profound state of denial about her pregnancy. This can occur with a woman who has no prior history of any type of mental health condition.

Stress induced denial can have powerful results. A pregnant woman can attribute the signs of pregnancy to other reasons. In fact, she can convince herself that signs of pregnancy are indicative of something else altogether. In this type of situation, common stressors include separation from a partner after becoming pregnant of serious financial issues.

Preexisting mental health disorders may also result in a woman not recognizing she is pregnant. The two most common types of psychiatric conditions that can cause a woman not to understand she is pregnant are schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

A person with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder lack “normal” coping mechanisms, which results in a denial of pregnancy. If a woman in this position exhibits symptoms of pregnancy, they oftentimes attribute them to something else. These alternative explanations for pregnancy include cancer or a blood clot.

Unattended Home Birth Cleanup

The aftermath of an unattended home birth can include the need to cleanup up a considerable amount of blood, bodily fluids, and other biological material (including the placenta). The birth mother is in no position to oversee this type of cleanup. Additionally, blood, bodily fluids, and other biological material can contain bacteria or viruses that potentially are harmful to others. Therefore, a unattended home birth cleanup specialists should be engaged to remediate the aftermath of this type of delivery. This process technically is known as a biohazard remediation.

An unattended home birth cleanup specialist will utilize a four-stage process to return the site of a delivery to a habitable condition. These stages are:

  • Cleanup
  • Sanitization
  • Deodorization
  • Restoration

In order to best protect against exposure to possible pathogens, and to reduce the damage caused by the presence of blood, bodily fluids, and other biological material, a biohazard remediation service should be engaged promptly.