Why give birth at home?
Women who choose to give birth at home are in a minority in most countries today in the last century or so, hospital births have very much become the norm. Why defy the norm, and say no to the perceived safety of a hospital setting, with all the professionals and equipment that could save your life or your baby's, in the event something should go wrong with during your labor and delivery? In short, there are many, many reasons some families opt to have their babies at home. My family is one example; I gave birth to both my children at home. I'll share my experience later on, but to start with, here's why some women choose homebirth:
- Studies have shown that giving birth at home is as safe as hospital birth, or even safer, for healthy and low-risk pregnancies.
- Giving birth at home allows the laboring mother have more control over her birth. A woman laboring at home may choose to give birth in water, for example, or to walk around during contractions.
- Women who have a history of very short labors may not make it to the hospital, and they don't fancy giving birth in their car.
- Seeing pregnancy, labor, and birth as natural and normal processes that don't require medicalization may well lead a family to choose homebirth.
- If giving birth at home is a safe option, why not choose comfort and have your baby without ever leaving your house?
- Any other reason.
What are the risks?
Studies about homebirth safety appear in peer-reviewed journals fairly regularly. Some show homebirth to be as safe as hospital birth, or even safer. Others show that homebirth increases the risk of neonatal death significantly (while showing that the risks are smaller than with hospital births for mothers). All in all, it is impossible to make a blanket statement about the safety or lack thereof of homebirth. Whether homebirth is a safe option for you or not would depend on various factors, including (not in order of importance):
- The quality of midwifery care a woman would have access to at home. Women considering homebirth should always get detailed information about the qualifications of their midwife, and her track record. In the US, there are two major types of midwives. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) have a degree, and practice in hospitals as well. Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) have much less training the requirements can be found on the web and often much less experience. You may like to read: What kind of midwife should you choose?
- The distance to the nearest well-equipped hospital, as well as the actual time it would take to reach that hospital in an emergency. This is something that expectant parents who are considering homebirth should actually try by doing test runs, at different times. See: How long would a transfer take?
- The health of the mom, the baby, and the pregnancy. Risk factors like gestational diabetes, twins, obesity, or a breech baby certainly make a birth much more dangerous.
- The quality of the care a woman would receive in hospital, as well as the condition the hospital is in. (If you're in a country where maternity hospitals are ill-equipped in terms of medications and medical equipment, have doctors that didn't receive appropriate training, and are corrupt as well, a good midwife from a neighboring country may well be safer. This was actually our situation.)
Homebirth what it can be like in practice
Are you think about having a homebirth? Reading how other women who gave birth in your country with the same type of midwife (or doctor, in some cases!) will give you a good idea of what to expect. Make sure to also read about women who transferred to hospital because of some complication as well. In my own case, my births were very straightforward. Both stories went something like, my labor started, I called the midwife, I had contractions for a while (about five hours with my first, and less than two hours with the second), and then had a baby. I loved how normal it was to have a baby, and with my second baby I also loved that I didn't have to spend time away from my older daughter.