Choosing a Home Birth

Posted by Jennifer on April 19, 2011 – 6:10 pm

image

photo adapted from jessica.diamond

Is it Safe?!?

Choosing a home birth is not just for the brave. or the insane. It’s not really even that radical of an idea; though society would have us believe that. Prior to the introduction of hospital births 100+/- years ago, home was where you had your baby. Oh, yes there has been a drastic reduction in the amount of fatalities surrounding birth in the past 100+/- years however I think it’s important to take note of the progress we’ve made in the area of hygiene as well. I think that, more than location, is the biggest contributing factor.

There have been many, many studies done on the subject of homebirth safety and it is generally concluded that planned homebirths are just as safe as hospital births. In fact, studies show planned homebirths have significantly less medical interventions and result in less C-sections. To be fair though, the homebirth pool contains only low-risk women to begin with.  Studies also show that women who choose to birth at home generally report being happier overall with their overall birth experience. Though regardless of where you give birth, no doubt most women are delighted with the outcome.

My Experience

If you missed it, the story of my switch from OB to midwife at 26 weeks and my resulting home birth decision can be found here. When I first made the decision to have a home birth, I was:

  • terrified I couldn’t handle the pain!
  • concerned about the mess and envisioned blood and birth fluid gushing down my stairs.
  • concerned about emergencies?

It turns out that I can handle the pain, because there is no option. It also seems that the “huffy puffy” breathing I made fun of does come in handy and that water is an incredible pain reliever. {love my tub!} It is also true that while after the fact you view the labor in terms of hours, during labor, you’re focused on one contraction at a time and one contraction is manageable!

As for the mess, there was gushing but it wasn’t down the stairs. I have to admit, a part of me was surprised at the amount of fluid from my water breaking {and I now wear disposable underwear during labor so I don’t have to worry. Yep, I just admitted that to the world!} as well as all the fluid that you gush after the birth. That being said, with a waterproof pad or a vinyl tablecloth under your mattress and a few old towels, there really isn’t that much laundry or mess afterwards. Really.

This may sound naive but there are less “emergencies” in childbirth that you think. Because midwives are specialists in normal, healthy deliveries, anything out of the ordinary beforehand is usually quickly spotted. Any concerns and their recommendation would be a hospital delivery. During delivery, they do bring oxygen, medication for hemorrhaging etc. The most common reason for a transfer to the hospital is long labor with a tired momma who would like medication or a midwife who has concerns about the lack of progression. Also, if there are any concerns at all during the delivery, the midwife is likely to spot them and the transfer is done before it becomes an emergency state. That being said, there is always the risk of a true emergency and there are unhappy endings at homes and hospitals.

Quick List of Perks in Random Order

  1. The hospital is full of sick people. My house isn’t {though I do have a 4yo and 2 yo so sometimes it is}.
  2. Less likely to have interventions.
  3. I don’t have to worry about when to go to the hospital. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. {Though I do have a hospital bag packed just in case}.
  4. I’ve gotten to know my midwives and their backups. The woman helping me birth my baby is familiar. In these parts, if you have a hospital birth, whichever doctor on call delivers your baby.
  5. I just plain like my house. I’m comfortable here. I believe that my body can labor naturally and for effectively if I feel comfortable and safe.
  6. I don’t have to be hooked up to monitors etc. ‘routinely’.
  7. I can eat and drink what I want at home. I don’t like hospital food.
  8. I can walk around naked comfortably. I can just wear on oversized T-shirt.  I can watch TV. I can soak in my big tub or relax in my oversized shower. I can have whoever I want present…or no one at all. I value my freedom.
  9. It’s quieter at home with no one laboring in the room next to me, across from me or down the hall.
  10. Everything I need and want is here. I don’t have to figure out what the “essentials” are, being limited by what I can carry in a bag.
  11. I’m less likely to be rushed and less likely to have a C-section.
  12. I can walk around outside, lay in my bed, bounce on my exercise ball or rock in my rocking chair.
  13. My husband is more comfortable here.
  14. I can give birth on my bathroom floor {which is where I ended up with Chloe} or my bedroom floor {where I ended up with John} and I can change rooms, positions, places etc. in the middle of it all if it isn’t working for me.
  15. It’s easy for visitors to come and go.
  16. There isn’t a whole ton of paperwork and I don’t have to wait to be discharged before going home.
  17. My children can meet our new baby right away. They don’t have to be concerned about mommy going away for a few nights/days. I’m always right here.
  18. Giving birth is special; a miracle of God. No matter where you give birth, that doesn’t change – but for me, I’m happy to celebrate that miracle in our home. 
  19. There is no time frame rushes. I can labor then push at a rate that is good for my body. We can cut the cord in our own time, I can nurse leisurely in my bed right away with all the newborn stuff {like weighing and measuring} waiting until I’m ready.
  20. My husband or I can catch the baby ourselves.
  21. DH had emailed out pictures of our babies within minutes of their births.
  22. You aren’t sharing a room with 1 or 3 other mothers who just had babies. {Never experienced it but can’t imagine trying to get sleep in between 4 newborns night feeding schedules}. Also, no one bothering me about my blood pressure, temperature etc. while I am trying to nap.
  23. Your midwife will come to you for your checkups for the first week. You really don’t have to go anywhere!
  24. And not that this was a deciding factor but in Ontario, the cost of your midwife is covered by the province and it costs the province of Ontario a LOT less for you to have a midwife and birth at home. And you’re helping reduce the strain on the healthcare system.

A homebirth with a midwife is a a wonderful, viable, safe choice for women who are healthy with low risk pregnancies. I share this post and my birth stories to raise awareness.  But homebirth is not for everyone! For those who have health issues or any sort of risk involved with their pregnancy, your OB is the best choice you could possibly make and I am thankful that we have the medical facilities available today that we do! Even as I choose to birth at home, I am thankful to know that a transfer to the hospital is an option.

Homebirth veterans, feel free to add to the list in the comments. If you’ve never had a homebirth, what would be your biggest fear?

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  1. 1. Susan @ Busy at Home Said:

    Hi Jennifer! I have not had a homebirth (yet) but I just wanted to stop over and let you know I’m enjoying this series! My first baby was born in a hospital with lots of interventions (thankfully no c-sec) and my second was born in tub at the nearest freestanding birth center. Loved the second so much more…except for the car ride there. I’m seriously considering a homebirth if and when we have another. It was so nice to only be out of the house for a matter of hours and be able to labor and recover at home with the birth center birth!

    I hope your birth goes swimmingly!

  2. 2. Judy Said:

    What do they do if the mother is Group B Strep positive? My second labor was so quick that my baby contracted it from me and had to stay in NICU for 10 days…many aspects of a home birth do sound appealing, but I’d hate risking my baby in the future if I were positive again.

  3. 3. kim mcintosh Said:

    Hey!
    I have been enjoying your series and wanted to post as a ‘homebirth veteran’ (although I feel odd saying that).

    We had my daughter at home in October 2010. Her birth was the best experience of my entire life. I am a different person because of her birth, although I’m sure that would have been the case regardless of home or hospital. My daughters birth story is here http://mummylandandlovingit.blogspot.com/2011/03/miss-fs-birth-story.html if you want to read it.

    My perks list includes:
    – you can enjoy the sounds, light, smells, and ‘feel’ of home – sounds weird but I was hyper aware of the changes in the light, the familiar sounds of the fridge, my own sheets, etc.
    – you can be naked without thinking twice about it. I never thought I would be a ‘naked birther’ but I was. My water broke and from then on I was naked, and it was great! Don’t knock it till you try it 🙂
    – everyone who was at the house was there for me and my baby, the only focus was on the birth of our daughter
    – my husband could feel ‘useful’ getting drinks, warming heating pads, making food, and generally just buzzing about. He didn’t know what to expect and for him he felt better being busy
    – no drive to the hospital while in labour
    – all of the equipment that would be found in a level 1 hospital room is brought to your house (where I live anyways)
    – the ability to sit on your own toilet for as long as you want (and not have to worry about other peoples germs)
    – no iv (unless you have group b strep and want the antibiotics, which midwives can administer in Ontario)
    – no monitors – just a quiet and gently midwife to check the heartbeat regularly and in a way that doesn’t disturb mums rhythm
    – no pressure, no expectation
    – respect – for you and your body as the creator and giver of this beautiful life

    On the mess – I had a lot of fluid, even the midwives were shocked at the amount of amniotic fluid I had but everything was cleaned up and in garbage bags without me even releasing it. It probably was all done in less than 5 minutes from me being in a pool of fluids to sitting on a nice dry bed

    On transfers to hospital
    – Where I live the general guideline is that you live within 30 (or so) minutes of a hospital. 30 mins is the time that it takes to set up an OR if needed. Midwives (at least where I live) can take blood, start iv’s, and do all of the prep work needed in an emergency situation.
    – I had a non-emergency transfer to hospital after birth because my placenta was not expelling within the time frame that the midwives like to see it. In my case it was not an emergency and I didn’t have a haemorrhage or any further complication. The transfer was handled extremely well and we were back home in bed within about 3 hours.

    Homebirth is not for everyone, if you are not comfortable with it then it isn’t the right place for you. That being said, I am a huge advocate for the enjoyment, experience, and benefits of homebirth. I would encourage anyone who is curious about it to talk to their local midwives and learn more. Many midwifery practices have homebirth information nights or past clients who are willing to share their experience.

    The following link has some good information http://www.cmo.on.ca/documents/TheFactsaboutHomeBirth_2010.pdf

  4. 4. Jennifer Said:

    I just read your story; wonderful! Congrats on your new baby! {5 months is still new!}

  5. 5. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom) Said:

    I am happy that there are options available for women these days. Home births are great for many… personally I’m a worrier and I MUST be in a hospital when I give birth. LOL

  6. 6. willowsprite Said:

    I would love to have a homebirth, but because of my c-sections I won’t be able to experience that. Although I am a little sad about that, I’m happy that we have two healthy and happy little boys! My favorite perk on your list is the feeling of comfort in the familiarity of your own home!

  7. 7. Jennifer Said:

    @willowsprite – the biggest hospital perk? Their ability to perform what’s necessary so you can have two healthy (and adorable!) little boys. Homebirth is a wonderful option but the moment baby is placed in your arms is magical no matter where you are. {hugs to you today!}

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