Giving Birth at Home – Is it Right for You?
It’s becoming more and more popular for American women to opt to give birth at home. But what are the risks and benefits of home birth? Is it safe? Will you still get the expert support you would in the hospital? What will happen if serious complications arise? Read on for a complete guide to home birth to help you make an informed decision.
1. What are the benefits of home birth?
There are many good reasons you might choose to have your baby at home. These include:
A better chance of having a natural vaginal birth:
Home birth statistics show that your chances of delivering naturally are higher when you have your baby at home.
Less chance of infections and allergies:
Your baby will begin to adjust to the environment of your home and develop antibodies right from the moment he or she is born.
Better bonding with both Mom and Dad:
When you have your baby at home, you are able to begin your home routine immediately. This can mean much deeper bonding with your baby as contact is completely uninterrupted. Additionally, new fathers often feel a little superfluous in the hospital delivery room. But with a home birth, they can play a much more active role.
Highly personalized care:
Homebirth midwives are trained to work one on one with women in their homes, whereas hospital midwives tend to work on a roster, so you may not get the midwife you’ve worked most closely with when the time comes for your delivery.
More comfort in familiar surroundings:
Being in your own home instead of an alien hospital bed can make a world of difference to your emotional state and level of comfort during childbirth.
2. What are the home birth risks?
The benefits sound very appealing, don’t they? But, of course, you need to take a balanced view to make an informed decision. Giving birth at home does have its drawbacks. The risks include:
This rare condition can sometimes go undetected until quite late in the labor. A small percentage of women suffer placental abruption during a home birth and need emergency medical care. It can mean you have to have an emergency caesarean and can even be life-threatening.
Statistics show that the instance of infant death is slightly higher with planned home births. But, as long as your pregnancy and labor are very carefully monitored for complications, this risk is very small.
Severe bleeding directly after, or in the weeks following, giving birth can put your life at risk. And, if you’re at home, you may not have access to the emergency medical care you need. Postpartum hemorrhages are fairly unusual and your midwife will be closely monitoring your state of health, so this risk is still fairly small.
Find out more about the causes and treatments of postpartum hemorrhage here.
3. What kind of support is available if I choose a homebirth?
One of the major concerns that women have when considering a home birth is the professional support that will be available to them. Unassisted home birth is not advisable – there are too many things that could go wrong – it is essential that you still have an expert team around you. Luckily, there are many professionals who specialize in home birth. You can choose a combination of:
If you decide that giving birth at home is right for you, your best course of action is to engage a specialized home birth midwife.
Find out more about the role of a midwife here.
Employing a doula is an excellent option if you’re planning to give birth at home. These trained experts can help you and your midwife physically and emotionally and often makes the chances of a successful home delivery much greater.
Your Husband or Birth Partner:
Many couples find that one of the greatest benefits of giving birth at home is that the husband is able to play a far more active role. You and your husband should take prenatal classes together to help prepare you both for the home birth process. Many couples who choose a home birth find that hypnobirthing is a very successful labor technique. If your husband is unable to be there for the birth (or you don’t have a husband!), you can ask a trusted friend or relative to be your birth partner. They will attend classes with you and be present to support you through the birth process.
4. What happens if things go wrong with my home birth delivery?
I’m sure we’ve all heard “home birth gone wrong” horror stories. But, the fact is, as long as you have a professional midwife with you, it should be perfectly safe. She will be monitoring your progress and will not hesitate to take action if serious complications begin to develop. Your midwife will do her best to ensure that your desire to give birth at home but, should unforeseen complications develop, she will also ensure that you get the emergency care you need. Remember that, even with modern medicine, there are numerous risks involved with childbirth and every delivery is different, regardless of whether it happens at home or in the hospital. Some of the complications which might mean you need to be transferred to hospital include”
- A labor which isn’t progressing.
- Excessive pain.
- Severe vaginal bleeding.
- Meconium in the amniotic fluid.
- A need for assisted delivery.
Remember that your birth plan is just a plan and that things can change. Of course, you are able to change your mind and ask to go to the hospital at any stage during your labor. Many women experiencing a painful home birth decide that they feel anxious about their own or their baby’s safety and decide that they will be more comfortable in the hospital. If you have built an open and trusting relationship with your midwife, you should be able to discuss and reassess your options at any stage.
5. Are there situations where a home birth isn’t advisable?
Yes. Your professional team will carefully monitor your pregnancy and may advise against a planned home birth if:
- You have an existing medical condition which could increase the risks associated with home birth.
- You have a history of difficult deliveries.
- Any fetal or uterine abnormalities are identified in ultrasounds.
- You develop a pregnancy complication such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.
- You home is too far from emergency medical care for a safe home birth.
6. What should be on my home birth checklist?
If you do decide to opt for a home birth, good preparation will be the key to comfort and success. Your midwife will help you with this but here’s a simple checklist to get you thinking about it:
- Do you have the support you need for a home birth?
- Have you discussed pain relief options with your midwife?
- Do you have the home birth supplies you need?
- Have you got the baby supplies you need for after delivery?
- Have you considered water birth or using a birthing ball?
- Has your husband arranged to be at home around your due date?
- Will you communicate your intentions for a home birth with your closest friends and family? (You might not want a friend dropping by at the wrong moment!).
- Have you made care provisions for your other children and/or your pets?
- Are you prepared to go to the hospital if an emergency arises?
Do you have home birth stories you want to share? Or a question you want to ask?
If you’ve given birth at home and would like to share your story, it could be really helpful for other women considering home birth to read about your experiences. Feel free to post in our comments section below or, if you feel a little shy, send a private message through our contact us page. Additionally, if you’ve read the article and still have a question about the home birth process, we’re more than happy to help. Just send us a message – there’s no such thing as a silly question!
More articles and advice on pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period:
A birth plan allows you to communicate your wants and beliefs with the professionals who work with you during childbirth. It allows you to give instructions about what you want to happen if things are not going smoothly and if complications develop. This document is particularly important if you do choose to give birth at home. It is generally developed with your midwife and we’ve got a helpful checklist to guide you through the process and help you understand what to expect. Click here to find out more.
In the final weeks of pregnancy, you’ll start to play the waiting game! But what are the signs of labor that you should be looking out for? Whether you decide to have your baby at home or in the hospital, you need to know the signs so that you know when to take action. Check out our guide to the earliest signs of labor.
Even if you decide to have your baby at home, it’s a good idea to have a hospital bag packed and ready in case things change and you end up needing hospital care. We’ve got a handy checklist of the things you might need before, during, and after delivery right here.
- A complete disposable obstetrical kit with all the necessary components for emergency use
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