For centuries giving birth at home was the normal thing to do, but by the 1900’s women slowly began changing their birth setting by going to hospitals. As our understanding of anatomy, modern medicine, the mechanics’ of childbirth, and technology have significantly increased, more and more women are exploring the idea of a home birth with trained midwives or nurse-midwives for low-risk, healthy pregnancies. As the desire for home birth grows, the number of studies and statistical data will continue to grow and give us a greater understanding of the risks and benefits. The information below will help increase your understanding as you move toward an informed decision.
Could home birth be for me?
Home birth might be an option for you if:
- You are having a healthy, low-risk pregnancy
- You want to avoid episiotomy, cesarean section, epidural and other interventions
- You want to be surrounded by 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 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 may be 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 even acupuncture needles
- Items for suturing tears
How often and in what situations would transfer to the hospital occur:
According to a study in the United Kingdom, approximately 40% of first time moms 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:
- Mom decides to go because she feels exhausted and does not want to continue
- Premature rupture of membranes
- High blood pressure
- No progress
- Fetal distress
- Cord prolapse
For a breakdown of percentages you can look at the following study: http://www.homebirth.org.uk/transferstudies.htm
Some pointers when considering a home birth:
- Compile a health care team by hiring a midwife and obstetrician
- Interview several midwives to discuss their birth philosophy; you may 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
- Ask your midwife if she works with a backup OB/GYN
- Choose a pediatrician to see the baby within 24 hours of the birth
Home birth perks:
Home birth may be significantly easier on your pocket book. 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 mom stop bleeding, clear mucus from the baby’s nose and mouth, and transfer disease-fighting antibodies in the milk from mother to baby.
Home birth allows you to be surrounded with those you love. When you include children, family, and friends in the birth process, it provides you with many helpers and allows a very intimate bonding experience for
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.
American Pregnancy Association, http://www.americanpregnancy.org