World-renowed midwife Ina May Gaskin has said medical students are being filled with â€śhorror storiesâ€ť about the nature of birth.
Ms Gaskin told the Irish Homebirth Assocation annual conference that there was a â€śsystematic scaring of womenâ€ť when it came to birth and this was leading to too many interventions and caesarean births.
She maintained that there are less interventions and less blood if midwives are thought not to be scared of birth.
A crowd of about 500 people turned up at a Dublin hotel to hear Ms Gaskin, the author of a number of best-selling books about childbirth, including Spiritual Midwifery. She is an advocate of natural birth and runs her own midwifery birthing centre in Tennessee called the Farm.
She said that the situation had improved in Ireland since her first visit in the 1980s when there was almost no home birth, but those who want home births would have to continue agitating.
Speaking about her own experiences, she told the audience that approximately 3,000 babies had been born at the Farm since 1970 and there had not been a single maternal death. The caesarean rate was 1.7 per cent and there had been no forceps delivery there since the 1970s.
Mr Gaskin said she was astonished to find caesarean rates in Brazil were between 50 per cent and 95 per cent.
She said the Farm had safer rates of birth with Amish women than for women in general in hospitals in the United States.
Ms Gaskin told the audience that the practice in hospitals of breaking a womanâ€™s waters when her cervix is 1cmÂ dilated is dangerous because the baby is really not nestled down far enough into the pelvis. She believed women should be given as long as possible to give birth.
The conference heard about the nature of memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the HSE and independent midwives who carry out home births in Ireland. The MOU is controversial as many independent midwives feel it is too restrictive and does not allow them to use their discretion as to whether a birth is safe or not.