Today, I’m going to revisit a topic that I haven’t written about in a long while: childbirth!
You may by now be getting the idea that I like to do a lot of things close to home- home-grown food, home-grown music, homeschooling- why not a home birth too?
Believe it or not, I was once not so crunchy. I used to think that those who wanted to have their babies at home were nutcases endangering the lives of their children. No access to medication? What if something happened? I couldn’t understand the appeal.
However, due to a situation out of our control, we were pregnant with my first son with no insurance, no medicaid qualification, and no way to possibly pay out of pocket for a hospital birth. It led us to look into our options in ways we hadn’t considered before.
After doing a lot of research and interviewing several home-birthing women and a midwife, we found that there were actually many benefits to a home birth that I would not receive in a hospital. I would like to share some of those, because if you’re not into the idea of home birth or natural birth already, it’s not always immediately obvious why someone would choose this option.
My two favorite guys after our first home birth.
Let me be clear: This post is not meant to discuss every possible pro, con, and controversy surrounding a home birth setting. Also, not everyone can or should have a home birth. However, for those who are good candidates and who would like to pursue the option, there are some real advantages.
1) Personal Care. My midwife knew who I was every visit. She remembered my face, my name, my children (after having them, of course). She was sensitive to my individual quirks, fears, hopes, and passions. She knew my health history in a more detailed way than a big practice provider does. (I believe this is a safety plus- I have heard of more than one incidence where a health care provider missed a crucial part of a patient’s history because of lack of time to know and remember every patient’s health details.)
2) Low-Tech, High Touch Care. Home birth midwives are more likely to use their hands, their minds, and simple external tests to tell you things that a large hospital-based practice would be more likely to check on by administering a test. For example, an experienced midwife can tell the position of your baby in utero by gently feeling your belly, vs. a busy provider who would prefer to perform an internal exam or send you for an ultrasound to tell the baby’s position. I prefer the less invasive, gentler forms of checking on my baby and my health whenever possible.
3) Affordable Care. We all know that hospital and large practice costs are blown out of proportion in order to adjust for insurance coverage. For example, my Group B Strep test with my son cost me $19 out of pocket. I administered it myself in my bathroom at home. My sister-in-law found a $119 charge on her bill for the exact same test that she had to go into the office for. My most recent home birth cost $2200 for the global cost of maternity care- prenatal, birth, and postpartum. Our local hospital costs about $12,000 for an uncomplicated vaginal birth alone.
4) Physiologic Birth. Midwives employ natural techniques for allowing your labor and birth to progress in a normal, physiologic fashion. For example, a midwife would encourage positional changes during pushing to help your baby to rotate, descend, and crown, vs. a hospital setting where you would likely be confined to your back for pushing- a position proven to close the pelvis and make pushing more difficult for the mother. Natural comfort measures would be utilized instead of drug usage whenever possible, thus reducing risk to mother and baby. Employing techniques to make your birth more physiologic makes for a safer, more comfortable birth.
5) More Options. Want to push on your hands and knees? Want to have your husband help catch the baby? Want to try water to labor in? Want to light candles and play music? Want to avoid an episiotomy? Want to go for a walk around the neighborhood in labor? Unless you have a very progressive hospital, these options are hard to come by outside of a home birth. Hospital policies, infection control, multiple patients, and liability concerns all curb your options significantly.
6) Peaceful Setting. This may not seem like a very important advantage. After all, a safe birth setting is more important than a peaceful setting any day- but that doesn’t mean that they are mutually exclusive! A peaceful setting can contribute to a calmer mother, less need for medication, less physical and emotional stress during labor, and a quicker and easier birth. While it is not guaranteed, a peaceful birth setting can contribute to making the whole experience safer and more pleasant.
7) Family Continuity. My son played in the living room with his aunt while I pushed out my daughter in the kitchen. There was no separation, no need for frantically juggling babysitters, no great mystery to explain to him when I brought my daughter home. He knew what was happening (mommy was working on getting the baby out), got to meet her right away, and had a relatively easy transition into brotherhood. Of course there is always an adjustment, but I felt that our bumps in the road were relatively few.
8) Strong Safety Record. Most people associate home birth with the practices of 100 years ago, with maternal and fetal death being quite common. If we still lived in that world, I probably wouldn’t be recommending a home birth to you at all! Today, however, midwives can combine time-honored birthing traditions, natural remedies, and the best of today’s knowledge of safe birthing practices in order to bring you a safer, more pleasant birth in the comfort of your home.
The best studies show that home birth is as safe as hospital birth when 1) you hire a qualified midwife (I’ll write another post on this sometime!) , 2) you are a low-risk mother (no pre-eclampsia, uncontrolled gestational diabetes, no hip injuries, multiple VBAC, etc.), and 3) you live within 15-30 minutes of a hospital prepared to do emergency procedures. (Not all hospitals are equipped to do an immediate cesarean, so make sure yours is!)
Meeting my lovely little gal after our second home birth. (Many thanks to Emily of Sweet Moments Photography for this gorgeous photo!)
A home birth is definitely not right for everyone, but for some women, it can be a good and safe option. Home birth mamas- what led you to have your babies at home?
(This collage shows my three babies as newborns. Aren’t they sweet?)