Friday Fallacy: The Netherlands Are a Fantastic Model When it Comes to Birth

It’s on every birth blog and pregnancy forum out there: the claim that, because the Netherlands has a high rate of homebirth, the country is some sort of exemplar for how birth should be done.

Case in point:

(side note: I love how not only do they delete any information that doesn’t fit their world view on their pages, but they flounce whenever they find a page that doesn’t delete it.)

First of all, the homebirth rate in Hollandthe Netherlands is nowhere near 92%. In fact, it’s currently around 29% and rapidly declining. Why is it declining you ask? Maybe it’s because they have some of the worst birth statistics in all of Europe.

According to a 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal, The Netherlands has a shockingly high perinatal mortality rate, one of the highest among European nations. In the study, the researchers found that infants of LOW RISK pregnant women whose labor started in primary care under the supervision of a midwife in the Netherlands had a higher risk of delivery related perinatal death and the same risk of admission to the NICU compared with infants of HIGH RISK pregnant women whose labor started in secondary care under the supervision of an obstetrician. Doesn’t sounds like all those Dutch homebirths are lowering the perinatal mortality rate to me.

And what about maternal health? That’s an indicator of the level of maternity care, too, right? Well, even with it’s relatively heterogeneous population and universal access to healthcare, the Netherlands has consistently had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Europe as well, especially in the last 10 years.

You’ll notice that even though the Netherlands has by far the lowest c-section rate in Europe, they have a much higher maternal mortality rate than, say, Italy, whose rate of cesarean delivery exceeds 40%.

So…the next time you see someone lauding the Netherlands for their fabulous statistics, ask them for their proof. Chances are they don’t have any, because this country’s stats SUCK when it comes to maternity care.

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