Amish Mother Happy With Hospital Birth

Cost, comfort and other factors influence where an Amish family decides to have its babies.

We’ve previously looked at Amish-friendly birthing centers and home birth as popular options.

But many Amish mothers in fact do what most English families do, and welcome their new bundles of joy in conventional hospitals.

Stork ParentsThis Hillsdale Daily News article was written, in part, to report on the first birth of 2015 at the Hillsdale Community Health Center (HCHC) in Hillsdale, Michigan.

But I found it more of interest for the comments from parents James and Ida Eicher, who happen to be Amish.

Ida Eicher complements the facility: “We like coming here since all the staff is so friendly and helpful.” This being her eighth child, you’d assume Mrs. Eicher knows something about the process.

She also gives a glimpse into the mothering customs in her community:

As for other conveniences, using disposable diapers is considered a norm in most Amish families.

“It’s probably about half and half,” Ida Eicher said. “Some still like to use the cloth diapers, but most like the convenience of the Pampers.”

Formula was something that wouldn’t be used unless absolutely necessary. Breast feeding is the best way to go for a lot of reasons, she said.

“For some, it’s not possible, but for us, it’s the best choice,” she added.

Amish births up at HCHC

According to HCHC nursing assistant Rachel Dow, Amish deliveries at the hospital have increased, given the significant Amish population in Hillsdale County. Ida Eicher shaes that her brother’s wife recently had a baby in another nearby hospital.

There were 4 Amish communities either fully or partially located in Hillsdale County as of 2013, with a total of 11 church districts. James and Ida Eicher are said to be from Quincy, location of a Swiss Amish settlement.

In recognition of their first-of-2015 birth, the Eichers were given a gift basket full of items from local retailers.

It sounds like they appreciated it, with Ida Eicher describing the items, including bibs, a rattle, and a diaper bag as “very usable.”

They did, however, leave behind the plug-in baby monitor and free movie tickets.

Unconventional alternatives

As mentioned above, Amish often opt for less-conventional or “old-fashioned” birth settings – for instance, at home, which offers comfort and closeness to family, not to mention a lower cost.

Or, a local birthing center, which may be more attuned to Amish culture than a hospital, and able to provide doctor-assisted midwife care.

Safety is a concern for birth in non-hospital settings, though screening out higher-risk cases and having emergency access to doctors and conventional facilities can reduce the danger.

A question for the parents (and future parents) out there: Anyone have experience with unconventional birth settings?

Would you consider home birth or other alternatives?

Image credit: Peter Broster/flickr

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    1. Alice Mary

      Not in my experience

      I haven’t had an “unconventional” birth experience, although when I had my first child (turning 39 this year), there were many more options than when my mother had ME! “Natural” (Lamaze) was the “in” way to go.

      Both of my kids were born in a hospital. For my first (my son), it was a long labor (26 hrs., total), and forceps had to be used…I couldn’t bring myself to think of having that experience anywhere BUT a hospital. (I was “put out”, due to my exhaustion and the whole procedure).

      Six years later, my daughter was born in a hospital, but it was as close to a “natural birth” (uncomplicated, fully awake, no epidural) as I could manage, knowing what happened with my son’s birth. Both of my kids were born on their due dates, too.

      The last 3 births that I know of in 2014(extended family, or friend’s grandchild), were ALL “early”–by anywhere from 3 to 5 1/2 weeks. Scary trend. I wonder if earlier births are also happening in Amish communities? If I were still in my childbearing years, that would be even more reason to give birth in a hospital or at least with an experienced midwife.

      I hope to read other replies to this post, as it’s more than just an “interesting” topic.

      Alice Mary

      1. Alice Mary, your first son’s birth sounds like what my own birth was like (at least that’s what they tell me, thankfully I have no recollection 🙂 ). About a full day of labor, and I still have a small facial scar from it.

        I haven’t heard anything about earlier births in Amish communities – in fact I didn’t know there was a trend. I have heard some might have at least the first one in hospital. As you might expect, the rates of hospital births can really vary, with the more conservative Amish doing that much less often. In An Amish Paradox, the figure given is about 1 out of 5 for Swartzentrubers, with around 3 out of 5 of the “higher” groups (Old Order and New Order) opting for hospital births.

        1. “An Amish Paradox” — sounds like the story of a doctor and his intern specializing in treating the plain folk. 😉

          1. That or a tale about two Plain water-going birds with webbed feet 😉

    2. Home births

      I always wanted to have my babies at home & that is what I had planned to do.. until my then husband stepped in & said “No! If the first ones goes ok & you want to do it with the next one, I’ll say ok to that”. Im so very thankful that he did.. He saved my life.. If I had had my 1st daughter at home, without medical supervision afterwards, I would be dead.
      After a very short labor (6 hours), no drugs at all, and just a few minutes of “its time”, my baby was born.. and a blood vessel of mine burst internally..a hematoma, no one knew. We all heard a pop but they thought the baby had broken her shoulder coming out.. but she turned out ok.. After a 5 hour surgery 2 days later, placing me in a semi-coma, and a 2 week hospital stay, I was to have 3 months complete bed rest after leaving the hospital. (Trust me, that didnt happen-maybe 3 weeks)
      I didnt even THINK about having a baby at home after that.. Especially when baby #2 came 2.3 years later.. I was on high watch for blood vessel issues but thankfully, none ensued.

      I kind of laughed & thought “Those Amish ladies want to go to a hospital so someone else can take care of THEM for a change and they dont have to get up out of their birthing bed to take care of the family.. I can see it as a sort of accepted pampered vacation”. It was for ME! 🙂

      I also considered a water birth but none of the facilities near me had any 33 years ago.. it was just coming into vogue at the time.. I would have loved that one!

      1. Yikes

        Wow Kim, that is dramatic! Thanks for sharing. I wonder if they’d be able to determine you were a higher-risk case and screen you out as they apparently try to do at some of the Amish birthing centers. Or if it’s not possible to foretell all of the risks, which is my suspicion.

        1. Dramatic births..

          I know It was pretty wild..
          The biggest problem with the issue with me is that there werent any warning signs that there could be any issues. No hereditary issues and I went to see my doctor regularly and was screened for common maladies.

          My doctor had never seen or even heard of anything like this happening.. He had to call his father who was also a doctor to come to surgery to assist, and they wound up having to call a specialist in Dallas Texas to talk them thru the surgery when they couldnt find the vein to cauterize.

          All I know is that Im mighty thankful to be alive and the Angels definitely had their hands on me that day. 😉

    3. Naomi Wilson

      We have had three home births with a midwife. They were 32, 14, and 42 hours, respectively. The third baby was posterior and painful. If I had been in a hospital I would have asked for an epidural. But all three labors were otherwise uneventful, and I’m glad no one pressured me to hurry things along. I’ve always felt very safe and well-cared for under the very attentive care of our midwife.

      I’m always thankful to hear of any mom who has the opportunity to birth in the environment of her choosing and in which she feels the safest, with professional, patient-centered caregivers.

    4. Debbie H

      Early Births

      Alice Mary I have heard of the early birth trend too. However, I heard it was because of induced labor for doctors convenience and sometime the parents. Examples are, husband being deployed, doctor going on vacation or has plans for weekend. My first child was induced but because of more than 24 hour labor and past due date. I had twilight sleep and remember thinking, “How do I know this is my daughter?” With my son it was natural (Lamaze). I was not pleased with that as I have a low pain thresh hold and the Lamaze didn’t help. I quit after that birth. I also breast feed my children which was helpful and cost effective. I don’t think I would try home birth or any alternative.

    5. Rita

      Home births

      After a fast first labor – only about three hours from beginning to end – and a second labor of less than two hours (including a hair-raising ambulance ride to get me there In time), we opted for a home birth with a midwife for the 3rd child. Of course, that one took a whole 6 hours to be born, longer than the first two labors combined. Our midwives were wonderful and the experience was a positive one all around. Incidentally, my obstetrician gave us his blessing to proceed with the home birth, considering my history with the first two births.

      1. I guess it’s easier to do a home birth if it’s not your first. At least you don’t have to worry about wild ambulance rides. In reading about this I’ve noticed people seem to really appreciate good midwives.

      2. Im jealous.. Not really but how wonderful.. I would have loved to have mine at home.

        Many of the hospitals where I live now in NE Ohio have birthing centers instead of old fashion cold sterile labor & delivery rooms.. Whole families can be in the rooms when the babies come into the world and I just think its beautiful.

    6. HDL

      First child in the hospital and second at home. Home is definitely the way to go, with an alternate plan if there’s problems. Home was so much more relaxing for Mom and Baby, without anyone poking and prodding. Also saved a lot of money and didn’t have to worry about fighting a doctor/hospital about not vaccinating. How do the Amish stand on vaccination?

      1. Amish vaccination tendencies

        Thanks for sharing HDL, seems like it would take a bit of courage to have a home birth but with proper preparation you can mitigate risk.

        On vaccination, it really varies. General rule is the more traditional Amish do less of it, though quite a few Amish do get vaccinated. But overall it’s lower than the general population.

        This issue was highlighted the past year with a measles outbreak that happened in the largest community in Ohio. A lot of Amish underwent vaccination in response.

        These will give you more info:

    7. I thought I read someones post that said both of their babies were born on their due dates.. So were both of mine! How very unusual we are! 😉

    8. Jennifer


      I wonder if you could find out for us, do the Amish get epidurals or pain medicine during a hospital birth? Or do they opt not to? I wonder if the church might have any say in a ‘comfort’ issue such as that?

      1. Susan

        Amish mother happy with hospital

        I think it’s up to the individual. My cousin in Kansas is Old Order and just had her 5th child. She had a C section with all of hers. She (of course) used pain medication. Her dad just had knee surgery this last week and used pain medication as well. My family there tends to try chiropractic and herbal first, but end up at the doctor’s office for care if the other doesn’t work.

      2. Do Amish restrict pain medication?

        Like most things Amish can’t say “always/never” but I have never heard of this being an issue. Those Amish that opt for hospital birth are accepting a conventional manner of treatment and what comes with it. While some may still refuse painkillers on an individual basis like other non-Amish invididuals do, I don’t think this is really going to be an Ordnung issue.

        This reminded me of another article which may relate somewhat to your question. The gist is that Amish don’t place restrictions on technology because they think there is some spiritually redemptive value of suffering or denial of comfort, but rather for the benefits it brings to church, family, and community (among other reasons).

        Here’s a post on it (“Do Amish restrict technology for the sake of suffering?”):

        1. Jennifer

          not punitive

          Thanks for replying, Susan and Erik. I didn’t really think it would be a desire to cause suffering that would involve the church- I was more thinking about the passages in Genesis that talk about pain in childbirth, and how that might be very literally interpreted by a very fundamentalist group. Thanks again for the interesting comments!

          1. Thanks for clarifying Jennifer, I did not consider that aspect but I still don’t think this is something that would be addressed on an Ordnung level. I’ll also add that accepting conventional hospital care does not always mean Amish people go along with everything that is prescribed. We had a very high-profile case in 2013 of an Amish girl in Ohio whose parents first permitted then later rejected chemo treatments, but that was because they felt the effects were too debilitating and then opted for an alternative treatment regimen.


        2. Jennifer


          And to clarify, I mean the parts about how because of our sin nature, men are bound to work the soil & women’s pain in childbirth will be multiplied.