BabiesHealthPregnancy & Childbirth

What to Expect When You Have a Baby in Portlandia

Apparently Portland, Oregon is the second best city to have a baby. So sayeth our evil overlords at Watch What Happens Live! No wait. That’s not it. I meant What To Expect When You’re Expecting. 

Portland, Oregon is second on the list — sandwiched in between San Francisco and Boise (I’m skipping the obvious Larry Craig joke right here, and for that you are very welcome).

Since the site’s criteria apparently includes a head count on the doula population and proximity to farmer’s markets (because where else do you go for placenta recipe inspiration?), perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but it seems to me that we’re missing some important data.

In 2012, the mortality rate for babies born at home in Oregon was six to eight times higher than the rate for babies born in a hospital. (The State of Oregon collected data on home births in Oregon for 2012; that information was analyzed by Judith Rooks, a certified nurse midwife and researcher, as described in her testimony at a 2013 legislative hearing.)

Should we just ignore that number? I don’t think so. From Judith Rooks’ testimony:

[O]ut-of-hospital births are not as safe as births in hospitals in Oregon, where many of them are attended by birth attendants who have not completed an educational curriculum designed to provide all the knowledge, skills and judgment needed by midwives who practice in any setting.

You shouldn’t laud a city for its high number of midwives without looking at the whole picture of midwifery care — in Portland, in Oregon, and in the rest of the United States.

Featured image by flickr user David Berkowitz.

Jenny Splitter

Jenny Splitter is a writer, storyteller and over-scheduled mom of two living in Washington, DC. She spends her glamorous days trying to write whatever she can, counting 1-2-3 in a slow yet threatening manner to her children, playing with gluten and working to eradicate dog hair from the planet (or at least her home). Find her on Twitter , Google+ and Facebook

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    1. You know what’s funny? I keep taking that Buzzfeed test about where you should live, and I keep getting Portland. I actually like it quite a bit. I’m from the west coast originally, and my dad lives in Portland now. It’s beautiful and the food is fantastic! But, you know, then there’s that whole fluoride ban too…ugh. Still, the coffee…I could move just for the coffee…

  1. That site says they factor in infant mortality… but wouldn’t perinatal and/or neonatal mortality be more relevant here? I’m always confused by references to infant mortality in the context of pregnancy and birth.
    Also, if I were considering where best to raise infants, I’d like to know vaccinaton rates, which don’t seem to be mentioned. Surprising, really, since I think even the antivaccers know that their own kids are safer when everyone else’s are vaccinated.

    1. Yes, either would definitely be more relevant, particularly the perinatal mortality rate. Of course, the number of home births (even in Portland) is still relatively low. I doubt that Portland’s perinatal mortality rate is unusually high, although it would be interesting to know what percentage of perinatal deaths are associated with a planned home birth.

      I agree with you about the vaccination rates too. It’s certainly a blemish on my home state of California, although we also seem to have a sizable number of parents in my neighborhood in DC who refuse to vaccinate.

  2. There are many things in life that are better when they’re weird. Childbirth is not one of them (except for the weirdness inherent in both vaginal and cesarean births, of course). Considering that there are more requirements for hairdressers than for midwives in Oregon, I’d choose a slightly different word for birth there than “best.” Perhaps… abysmal? Perilous?

    1. With my first pregnancy, I actually remember saying to a friend — “This doesn’t feel “natural.” This feels entirely wrong!” Weird? Definitely. And also perilous. I had pre-eclampsia. Luckily my OB diagnosed me and I delivered in a hospital.

      1. Women are naturally good at dying in childbirth and pregnancy.
        I always shake my head at people who tell me “ach, I was also born at home and look I’m fine!” Because those who didn’t make it can’t tell their story, right? And usually that person also knows about a sibling or cousin who didn’t make it, but somehow that is never chalked up to the lack of medical options back then…

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