These Stunning Photos Demonstrate the Beauty of a Natural Home Birth
Home birth is a somewhat mysterious phenomenon, largely because it usually happens behind closed doors. Brazilian photographer Gustavo Gomes wanted to change that.
Gomes, whose daughter Violeta was born at home in June, published photos of his partner Priscila's 20-hour labor and delivery in an effort to capture an authentic and natural home birth. The photos are gorgeous, but they're also intended to make an important statement about maternal healthcare.
"[Brazil] has the highest Caesarean rates in the world," Gomes told Mic. According to the Atlantic, 82% of babies born in Brazil's private hospitals are delivered via C-section. "Most [C-sections happen] with no medical reasons, just because C-sections can be scheduled and are quicker for the doctors to operate."
"Priscila and I never felt helpless during the whole process with a doula, an obstetrician and a pediatrician," Gomes said. He told Mic that he hopes his photos remove the veil of mystery surrounding home childbirths, as well as encourage women who are about to give birth to avoid C-sections unless they're a medical necessity.
It's not just Brazil. The United States isn't far behind Brazil when it comes to C-sections. American women give birth via C-section at a rate of more than 30%, which is more than twice the rate the World Health Organization recommends and well above the target rate for "medically necessary" caesareans.
While the procedure can improve maternal and infant health outcomes at a certain rate, it's not without risks: C-sections, while fairly common, can cause permanent complications, including increased bleeding, blood clots and, in rare cases, injuries to nearby organs, such as the bladder.
That might be why out-of-hospital births are on the rise in the U.S., and have been for more than a decade. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of home births rose 29% between 2004 and 2009. Although out-of-hospital births remain in the minority for American birthing options, having babies at home is catching on among a specific demographic: married women over the age of 35 who have already had kids before.
Home births do have their benefits. Not all women will be able to have a natural birth, but those who do might see benefits from delivering their babies at home. Home births have a lower risk profile than hospital births, but they also have other, emotional benefits. Mothers who've delivered at home report enjoying the privacy and sense of control that comes with delivering in a nonclinical setting.
The intimacy between mother and newborn in Gomes' photos illustrates just one of the benefits of home birth.
"Priscila had a healthy pregnancy, so we thought we didn't want to spend two days in a hospital room after our baby was born," Gomes said. "Sleeping with Violeta between us in our bedroom in her very first night was priceless."
He also said that taking photos didn't get in the way of helping Priscila or being involved in the birthing process. "That's the reason why I don't have any photos of Violeta coming out," Gomes said. "I was there to be the first to hold her when she came to light."