ACOG: Still down on home births

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came out once again this week cautioning against home births.

Hospitals and birthing centers are the safest place for labor and delivery, the speciality organization of obstetricians stated in a committee opinion on Thursday.

A prior Cesarean delivery "is an absolute contraindication to planning a home birth due to the risks, including uterine rupture," the statement said. Twins, breech babies and pregnancies that have gone beond 42 weeks are not good candidates either — too risky for the babies, ACOG said.

"Home births don't always go well, and the risk is higher if they are attended by inadequately trained attendants or in poorly selected patients with serious high-risk medical conditions such as hypertension, breech presentation, or prior Cesarean deliveries," said Richard N. Waldman MD, ACOG's president.

This is the latest in a long line of statements the group has made cautioning against the less than 1 percent of  American births that take place at home.

Even so, ACOG does want women to know that if they decide to deliver their babies at home, they should get the "standard components of prenatal care, including Group B strep screening and treatment, genetic screening, and HIV screening."

And, they should work with a birth attendant who is part of "an integrated and regulated health system, have ready access to consultation, and have a plan for safe and quick transportation to a nearby hospital in the event of an emergency," the statement said.

ACOG vs. midwives in NY

A fight worth watching is shaping up in the New York State Legislature, where a bill that would ease restrictions on the practice of midwifery has attracted opposition from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the new political arm of the 59-year-old organization that represents physicians who specialize in caring for women.

The bill, dubbed the Midwifery Modernization Act by its supporters, would give midwives the right to attend pregnant women without first obtaining a written practice agreement from a medical doctor.

On June 17, ACOG held a press conference in Albany to warn that the bill could compromise the safety of mothers and babies by exposing them to the risk of delivering without medical backup in the event of an emergency.

Midwives say that they sometimes have a hard time finding a doctor, say, in rural areas, willing and able provide a written practice agreement. And, they say, the problem is not confined to the boondocks.Pregnant Graffiti

After St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City closed last April, seven midwives who attend home births found themselves without a practice agreement, according to a story in the New York Times. St. Vincent's, a Catholic hospital, reportedly was uncommonly sympathetic to home births.

New York has as many as 900 midwives, more than any other state, according to Laura Sheperis, president of the New York Association of Licensed Midwives, in a separate story. Fifteen states so far do not require written practice agreements, which Sheperis has characterized as a "cumbersome and unnecessary barrier to health care and provider choice."

The bill would not prohibit doctors and midwives from creating written practice agreements; it would remove the requirement for them.

ACOG came out swinging against home births (along with the American Medical Association) in 2008 in response to "The Business of Being Born," a film that featured the home birth experience of actress/former talk-show host Ricki Lake.

"...Monitoring of both the woman and the fetus during labor and delivery in a hospital or accredited birthing center is essential because complications can arise with little or no warning even among women with low-risk pregnancies," ACOG stated in 2008.

Obstetricians deliver about 70 percent of American babies, while midwives, mostly nurse-midwives, handled roughly 8 percent of births in 2004. Family physicians attend about 20 percent of American births.

"Pregnant Graffiti" by Petteri Sulonen

The latest edition of doctors’ book on birth

Often, the annual meeting of a medical group produces a flurry of scientific papers, but the meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists seems more like, say, a bunch of writers  getting together. (I attended the 2009 meeting in Chicago.) As a cohort, OB-GYNs seem to want to find out about the newest approaches, tools and techniques they might put to use in their practices, and perhaps exchange some stories from the trenches as well.

Happy babyBut here's something new for consumers from ACOG, which held its annual meeting in San Francisco this week. The fifth edition of Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month was unveiled, along with a new companion website,  www.yourpregnancyandchildbirth.com.

While there are many pregnancy books, this one is "unique in the extent of the medical detail that it covers about all aspects of pregnancy, yet it is designed as an easy-to-read, helpful reference for all of those questions that inevitably pop up," said Hal Lawrence, MD, The College's vice president of practice activities in a press release on the ACOG website.

The latest edition of the book has a new chapter that addresses obesity and eating disorders, another devoted to diabetes during pregnancy, and a third covering other chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, celiac disease, lupus, and physical and mental disabilities.

"The majority of women do not experience severe complications, but we felt it was important to give a thorough overview so women will know if something's wrong and when to call a doctor," Dr. Lawrence said.

Another new chapter covers feeding the baby, and includes advice on both breastfeeding and the use of formula.

At least the acronym still works: ACOG

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists begins its annual clinical meeting today in San Francisco. And so, I guess, does the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Where there was one organization, there now are two, and confusion abounds. I gather that even some ACOG members and staffers aren't sure exactly where the College leaves off and the Congress starts.

Here's "the basic explanation" I got from ACOG's press office when I inquired about the new name on the ACOG website:

The College and the Congress are two separate and distinct legal entities, although they are companion organizations.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a 501(c)(3) organization and its activities include producing the College's practice guidelines and other educational material.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a new 501(c)(6) organization that was formed December 31, 2008 and is operational as of January 1, 2010. The Congress focuses on socioeconomic, political, and grievance activities for its members.