For centuries giving birth at home was the norm. By the 1900’s increasing numbers of women started having their babies at hospitals. As our understanding of anatomy, modern medicine, the mechanics’ of childbirth, and technology have significantly increased, more and more women have been willing to consider the option of having a home birth.
This option involves the participation of trained midwives or nurse-midwives in cases of low-risk, healthy pregnancies. As interest in home birth increases, the number of studies and amount of data will continue to grow to provide us with a greater understanding of the related risks and benefits.
The following information is designed to help women make an informed decision:
Could home birth be for me?
Home birth can be an option for you if:
- You are having a healthy, low-risk pregnancy
- You want to avoid an episiotomy, cesarean section, epidural and other similar interventions
- You want to share the experience with family and friends
- You want to be free to move around, change positions, take a shower, and eat or drink freely during labor
- You want to enjoy the comforts of your home and familiar surroundings
Home birth is not for you if:
- You are diabetic
- You have chronic high blood pressure, or toxemia (also known as preeclampsia)
- You have experienced preterm labor in the past, or are at risk for preterm labor now
- Your partner does not fully support your decision to give birth at home
Most midwives will bring the following with them the day of delivery:
- Oxygen for the baby if needed
- IV’s for mom if she becomes dehydrated or needs additional nutrients
- Sterile gloves, gauze pads, cotton hat for the baby, drop cloths, waterproof covers for the bed, a thermometer, a pan for sitz baths after birth
- Fetoscopes or ultrasonic stethoscopes
- Medications to slow or stop a hemorrhage
- Special herbal preparations, homeopathic remedies, massage supplies/techniques and perhaps even acupuncture needles
- Items for suturing tears
How often and under what circumstances would transfer to the hospital occur:
According to a study in the United Kingdom, approximately 40% of first time mothers and 10% of women who have previously given birth are transferred to the hospital for delivery.
The following are some of the reasons women are transferred:
- The mother feels exhausted and does not want to continue
- Premature rupture of membranes
- High blood pressure
- No progress with labor
- Fetal distress
- Cord prolapse
For a breakdown of percentages you may refer to the following study: http://www.homebirth.org.uk/transferstudies.htm
Some pointers when considering a home birth:
- Put together a health care team consisting of a midwife and an obstetrician
- Interview several midwives regarding their birth philosophy. You might be more comfortable with a midwife who shares your view of birth
- Write out a Plan B in case a hospital transfer is necessary
- Hire a doula
- Find out if your midwife works with a backup OB/GYN
- Find a pediatrician who will examine the baby within 24 hours of the birth
Home birth perks:
Home birth may be significantly easier on your bank account. An average uncomplicated vaginal birth costs about 60% less in a home than in a hospital.
Home birth provides immediate bonding and breastfeeding. Early breastfeeding helps the mother stop bleeding, clears mucus from the baby’s nose and mouth, and transfers disease-fighting antibodies in the milk from mother to baby.
Home birth allows you to be surrounded by those you love. By including children, family, and friends in the birth process, you are provided with many helpers and everyone involved has the opportunity for intimate and close bonding.
You may find the following books helpful.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Home Birth Reference Site, http://www.homebirth.org.uk/
The Birth Book. Sears, William, M.D., et al, Ch. 3.
Birth Your Way. Kitzinger, Sheila, Ch. 3 & 4.
Gentle Birth Choices. Harper, Barbara, R.N., Ch. 8.