The Amish and home birth

Does the stork make home deliveries?  For many Amish families, the answer is yes.

Birth at home, or in Amish-oriented birthing centers, is preferred for a few reasons.  They include cost, comfort, and closeness to family.  Midwives, some licensed, and others not, often handle deliveries in lieu of a doctor.

Midwives may be non-Amish, or in some cases come from within the Amish community.  In Housecalls and Hitching Posts (telling the story of Dr. Elton Lehman’s career among the Holmes County Amish), an Amish midwife named Barb Hostetler delivers Amish and Mennonite babies in her home, and even some from non-Amish women.  Lehman ends up partnering with Barb to help deliver hundreds of Amish children in a home setting.

amish home birth
Birth at home provides a comfortable setting for many Amish mothers

However, many Amish do opt for hospital births.   In An Amish Paradox, Charles Hurst and David McConnell cite some figures for the Holmes County settlement.

As one might expect, the moderate and progressive Old Order and New Order Amish affiliations choose hospital births more often–nearly 3/5 of the time.

For their highly conservative Swartzentruber Amish neighbors, however, the figure is much lower, with around 1/5 of Swartzentruber births occurring in hospitals.

The home birth issue has been controversial.  Two of the main issues are licensing and the level of care received.  Doctors may be present or reachable during a birth, though in many cases midwives are the only ones in attendance.

The Holmes County settlement is also home to a handful of birthing centers, some of which are more “medicalized”, as Hurst and McConnell describe it, than others (meaning having doctors and nurses available and following a “mainstream medical model”).

Less-medicalized settings have faced criticism.  Referring to an unlicensed care center, a doctor quoted in An Amish Paradox says that “We see a lot of bad cases come out of that one…We would blame it of course on the fact that there aren’t well-trained midwives there.  I suppose just being farther away from the hospital makes it look worse too, because it takes longer to get somewhere.”

Read more on Amish home birth.

Photo credit: WCN 24/7

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    1. richard ....... close to the amish community of lebanon,pa

      although i like the homestyle way of delivering a baby, i think if your going to give birth using it, it needs to be regulated to some sort of standards. if they can meet those then i think its a fine not a big fan of hospitals to be honest because the quality can be all over the place depending on which one you go to.

    2. Christina

      A friend once told me that giving birth is not a medical condition and so a medical doctor is not needed unless there is a problem with the baby or the mama. She always went with a midwife. I see her point, she has 5 kiddos! However, I do think there needs to be standards of some sort to keep both mama and little one safe and guard against possible infections that might occur.

    3. Anita

      The issue of midwifery and home birthing is pretty controversial all over the country. I have a couple friends who are into that kind of thing and it’s quite political with midwifes spending time in jail to defend their right to do what they do…

      As far as the Amish go, my cousin from N IN told me they call the birthing centers there ‘Stop and Drop’s- sort of crude but they laugh when they say it. 😉

    4. Katie Troyer

      We were brought up thinking the Stork delivers babies. I can still see my younger sister pointing to a stork flying overhead and getting all excited about someone in the neighborhood getting a baby.

    5. Kate

      In our community the only time they use hospitals are if they know there will be complications or risks. Other wise a certified midwife delivers with the help of an Amish woman in our church. I hope to be able to help with births someday! I love the home birth and we have to remember our ancestors did this for YEARS and obviously they did alright. Sure there can be problems but they can happen at a hospital too. As long as there are no complications I will also choose a home birth. I think those are choices that should be thought out and consider based on the parents preferences not the states. Though I do understand where they are coming from I think it is the parents choice. Thanks for the post!

    6. Anita, “Stop and Drop”?? That one I hadn’t heard…Don’t ever tell me Amish folks don’t have a sense of humor 🙂

    7. Read up on the growing problem of hospital patients contracting what can be life-threatening bacterial infections inside hospitals (one common name is “flesh-eating disease”) and having one’s spawn delivered in other than a hospital or other communal location where staph infections are more likely to be spread makes sense.

    8. rick

      At the annual New Wilmington PA benefit auction, there is always a gift certificate auctioned for mid-wife services, valued at $1000 or $1200 I think. “Good for 1 year”, they like to joke, “so you still have time if you’re not already expecting.”. It usually sells for right at the stated value.

    9. Sharron Clemons

      Anita, “Stop and Drop”?? That one I hadn’t heard…Don’t ever tell me Amish folks don’t have a sense of humor 🙂

    10. Megan

      We have been birthing babies for 6000 years without med science. Now just 60 years of them thinking they are so good they are God that people blindly believe they are safe. Stay home, have your kid like Grandma and Great Grandma, etc. Oh wait that’s right women did NOT die that often in childbirth. That’s why women like my Great Grandma had 13 kids and lived even after the 13 one!!!!!!!!! More problems with the Med science way, they just don’t tell you that. They want your MONEY!