Nick’s Fulbright Research: Hungarian Home Birth Post-Ternovsky

Nick working on his research.

Nick working on his research

This is not an official Department of State website or blog, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program of the U.S. Department of State.


Breaking from the visualization theme of from my last three posts, in this post I will introduce Nick’s Fulbright research.  It’s his orientation week where he mingles with other Fulbright scholars and chitchats about their heady, save-the-world ideas (very dorm room, 3am).  At his side, I get to attend a couple of snazzy orientation mixers as well—the benefit of being a doctor’s spouse.

Nick’s research will likely be a regular theme of this blog—not only because it’s fascinating but because every time I post a picture of Nick or his work, my readership skyrockets.  See Ode to an OB/GYN & How I Became a Fan of the Placenta.  With over 22K visits, the placenta post ranks as my #1 post, giving rise to my fleeting consideration of including a random placenta mention and pic in every post.

Back to Nick’s Fulbirght; below is the context that informs his research.

Hungary is at the center of a highly polarized global home birth controversy.  One side believes birth is a natural process that is being forced by a patriarchal medical model into a hospital setting.  The other believes birth is inherently risky and should always be supervised in a hospital, by a physician.  In many countries around the world (including Hungary … and the U.S) legal regulations or medical practice norms have restricted a woman’s option to choose home birth.

For example, home birth has never been illegal in Hungary, but until recently it was illegal for a provider to attend a home birth.  This basically criminalized all safe home birth options.

Ágnes Geréb is a Hungarian obstetrician/midwife who risked her medical career (and much more) to provide women with a home birth option.  Since 1989 she has attended thousands of home births.  In 2010, she was arrested after a baby died in a home birth that she attended.  In a sensational trial where she was shackled in leg chains and handcuffs, Geréb was convicted of manslaughter and subsequently put under house arrest, where she remains to this day.

After Geréb’s arrest, Anna Ternovsky, a Hungarian woman who delivered her first child with Geréb’s, sued (with the help of the HCLU) the state of Hungary in the European Court of Human Rights, claiming the legal right to a home birth.  She won.  Now Hungary and other European countries have to comply.

But compliance does not equal access.  Anyone who has followed the increasing restrictions on abortion in the U.S. understands that legality and accessibility are two very different things.

In his research, Nick will explore how Hungarian women perceive their birthing options and whether or not they view home birth as a safe, accessible choice.  In addition to hopefully informing Hungarian policy, his findings could be pooled with those of other studies being done around the world to help resolve the global debate of whether home birth is a medical risk or a human right.  As I said—fascinating.

I almost ended this post with a gratuitous placental photo.  Shame on me.


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