If you find yourself considering a home birth, you are not alone! Although home is still the least common place to give birth (compared to hospitals and birth centers), home birth is on the rise—they've nearly doubled in the last 15 years.
Many studies show that giving birth at home or in a birth center with a skilled midwife is equally safe to giving birth in the hospital in terms of the outcomes of mothers and babies. Other studies have contradicted this, however. This is why it is so important to discuss your desires and questions with your provider—and to get second and third opinions—when determining what that best option for you is.
Should you have a home birth? Here are eight perks to consider:
1. All of your pregnancy visits are at home and they are often close to an hour.
When you are pregnant, there is nothing more delightful than having your midwife come to you for a long visit, as most do. With the average OB pregnancy appointment topping out at six minutes in the U.S., this is a huge point.
2. You get to hand-select who will attend your birth.
Do you want 10 of your closest friends and family there to support you? Great. Do you want just your partner and your midwife and doula? Fine. There are no unknown care providers, students, nurses or visitors.
3. In labor, you don't have to go anywhere.
Or get dressed, walk out your door, hail a cab, talk to lots of medical staff, spend time in a waiting room, or listen to other women who are in labor.
4. You'll have your own stuff.
You will have your bed, your shower, your stuff, your blankets, your…you get the idea. You are in your home where you feel safe and comfortable, and this non-clinical environment encourages you to birth your way.
5. It may be easier to have freedom of movement.
While this is increasing possible in hospitals—and definitely possible in birth centers—it is often easier to achieve at home. Women allowed freedom of movement during labor have a greater sense of control, decrease requests for pain medication and may have shortened labor.
6. The midwife will use a handheld doppler to monitor your baby's heart-rate.
(A doppler is the device your provider is likely using to listen to your baby's heart rate at prenatal appointments.) This means no wires and machines to hook up to, which means more freedom of movement.
7. There is a lower rates of interventions.
Working with a home birth midwife may lower your chances of needing an IV, a Cesarean, episiotomy, forceps, or vacuum suction. Interventions are non unattainable—they still can occur during planned home childbirth. A woman needing any of this medical support will be transferred to the hospital during labor.
8. You'll have immediate, intimate time as a family.
All postpartum care for you and newborn care happens in your home—maybe even in your bed! Your baby will be with you the whole time, and you will be able to focus on what matters to you.
Can you have a home birth? It might be right for you if:
- You remain low-risk during pregnancy and throughout the delivery.
- You desire to give birth with as little medical intervention as possible, including epidurals and other pharmacological pain medications.
- You believe that home is the safest and best place of birth for you, and be prepared that some friends and family may not be as supportive as you'd like.
- You feel comfortable with that fact that in order to keep your birth as safe as possible, your midwife may require that you transfer to the hospital to give birth.
What does the medical community say about home birth?
It is important to note that home birth is controversial, in that providers feel differently about them. Here are what the leading women's health organizations have to say:
American College of Nurse-Midwives: "For the essentially well woman experiencing a healthy pregnancy, intrapartum, postpartum, and newborn course, childbirth with qualified providers can be accomplished safely in all birth settings, including home, birth center, and hospital."
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with the following statement as well): "Although the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believes that hospitals and accredited birth centers are the safest settings for birth, each woman has the right to make a medically informed decision about delivery. Importantly, women should be informed that several factors are critical to reducing perinatal mortality rates and achieving favorable home birth outcomes. These factors include the appropriate selection of candidates for home birth; the availability of a certified nurse–midwife, certified midwife or midwife whose education and licensure meet International Confederation of Midwives' Global Standards for Midwifery Education, or physician practicing obstetrics within an integrated and regulated health system; ready access to consultation; and access to safe and timely transport to nearby hospitals."
When deciding where to give birth, listen to your intuition, and ask your provider (and potential providers) tons of questions. Know that beautiful and safe experiences can happen no matter where you decide to give birth.