As many of you know, I had 3 wonderful home births (kids 2-4), and if I were to get pregnant again I would certainly plan another home birth.
Many people automatically feel tense when the topic of home birth is brought up. This is due in part to the fact that so many people in our culture believe that the only “safe” place to birth is in the hospital.
The truth is that for healthy women having normal, uncomplicated pregnancies, home birth is safer for mom and baby.
Home births are becoming more mainstream in the States for a number of reasons. Some celebrities are known for their choice to birth at home, which is great because it leads to more publicity. Home birth is not an extreme, “out there” choice. It’s a choice that women from all walks of life are making as the best choice for themselves and their babies.
Let’s take a look at 13 benefits of home birth.
1. Safety. I already mentioned this earlier, but much of the research on home births has found that infant and mortality rates are a little bit better in a home birth. There’s less chance of c-sections, induced labor or the use of forceps, as well as other interventions that often have unintended negative consequences.
Another safety issue is that of baby being separated from mom. While we don’t hear about these cases often, babies do get switched at birth when they go to hospital nurseries. They also sometimes get bottles and pacifiers (sabotaging early breastfeeding efforts) or have their cries ignored when they are separated from mom and dad.
2. Stress. It’s widely accepted that a home birth is significantly less stressful for the mother. Instead of having to ride (horribly uncomfortable when you’re in labor!) to a hospital, you get to seamlessly labor then birth in the comfort of home. This effect is not to be quickly disregarded.
Stress makes labor more difficult and births more dangerous. Adrenaline inhibits labor. This is why so many women find that their contractions level off when they go to the hospital – the body feels stressed out and decides it’s not the right time to labor.
Also stressful is having to leave the hospital and drive home with a new baby. With home birth, you are free to relax in your own bed for as long as you feel comfortable. No nail-biting drive home from the hospital, secretly cursing every other car on the road!
3. Family. A home birth means you can have whomever you want in the room with you. Hospitals usually have strict policies about the number of people you can have around.
My children (as well as parents and two midwives) were in the home during my home births. My parents were able to share in the experience of welcoming their new grandchild into the world and were extremely helpful with my other children while I labored.
My children who observed a younger sibling being born have a very normal, healthy concept of what birth is really like. Unlike popular media images, they didn’t see a woman out of control with her legs up in the air, screaming and verbally abusing her husband and the people around her.
They saw me working very hard to do something… and then there was a baby.
4. Choices. A home birth means you can walk around, make a sandwich, listen to music, watch television, cook, do housework, etc…. or do whatever you feel like doing while you’re in early labor. (Once you’re in heavy labor you usually can’t focus on anything else but what you’re doing!) Hospital rooms are much more restrictive.
Yet this activity helps move the baby along in the birth canal and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed and tired out by hours of laboring. It distracts you and takes your mind off of the early pains that don’t really need much attention. It passes the time. During my last birth, I bounced on a medicine ball listening to Patsy Cline croon at me. Both of these things felt extremely comfortable. Later I crawled around on the floor like a crab. This also helped me deal with labor pains. Not to mention the “liquid epidural” that is the birth pool!
5. Comfort. A home birth allows you to give birth in whatever position you feel most comfortable in. The old “on your back with your feet in the stirrups” is horribly uncomfortable and does nothing to help a woman birth comfortably.
For my 3 home births, I was sitting up and squatting on a birthing stool. It was far more comfortable than my hospital birth, which had me semi-reclined in a hospital bed (no coincidence, this was the only birth that resulted in a perineal tear!).
6. Nourishment. A home birth means you can eat and drink whatever you desire. Hospitals generally restrict you from eating. Not only is there little evidence to support this practice, but it can also lead to hypoglycemia in mom and baby, both of whom are working extremely hard to birth, often for several hours.
7. Control. A home birth means no intervention – for you or baby – without your permission. Hospitals often tell you what they’re doing about halfway through the procedure when it’s too late to tell them you don’t want pitocin and you don’t want that IV stuck into the back of your hand.
Hospitals, due to litigation, often make rules that do not serve individuals, just to protect themselves. (“CYA”) No woman would choose to have a fetal heart monitor continually strapped to her body, inhibiting her movement, during labor. And there is no evidence to prove that such constant monitoring leads to better outcomes for moms and babies! It’s just CYA.
8. Bonding. A home birth means you can bond with your baby immediately without them being whisked away to be washed (unnecessary) and swaddled (also unnecessary). You can count baby toes and fingers, kiss and hold and fall in love with your baby. This is also an ideal time for the first breastfeeding.
9. Breastfeeding. Home birth and breastfeeding are a match made in heaven. Childbirth and breastfeeding are more intimately connected than many realize. The early days of breastfeeding are easier and far more cozy when a mom has given birth and recuperated at home.
10. Midwives. A home birth means you will likely use a midwife and that experience alone is enough for many women to choose home birth. Midwives tend to have a more personal approach to childbirth and their patients. They take far more time with their clients than Doctors and Certified Nurse Midwives do (the average appointment time is an hour, not 7 minutes!). Midwives stay with you during your entire intense labor experience, and for several hours afterward, to help you establish breastfeeding, clean up your home, make sure you’ve showered and eaten (if that’s what you choose), and perform the newborn’s first exam.
11. Home. Finally, a home birth allows you to recover from childbirth in the comfort of your own home. If you’ve ever been in the hospital, even if it’s for a wonderful reason like childbirth, then you know first hand that it’s not a fun place to be. Home is much better, surrounded by familiar things and familiar people.
12. Dad. Home birth makes Dad a more prominent figure in the birth. Dads are often perceived as a nuisance or something to tolerate in the birthing room at a hospital, but his presence is very important at home. He may be rubbing mom’s back, keeping her birth tub full of warm water, fetching water/juice/snacks, mopping sweat from her brow, etc.
They also are more in control of what their baby experiences in its first moments and hours of life. Dads sometimes feel misplaced by the “alpha” person in the room – the Doctor or CNM. During a home birth, a midwife doesn’t feel this way about the father of the baby. In fact, his skills may be employed to help the baby out – the same activities that put the baby in may be needed to naturally augment labor (I’ll let you use your imagination here!).
13. Pride. Home birthing moms tend to be a proud bunch. Having natural childbirth makes you feel amazing about yourself as a woman. “I did that“…while the midwife is there to make helpful suggestions and in case of emergencies (midwifes are trained as well as equipped to deal with many of these at home and recognize the signs of trouble early enough for mom to transport to the hospital safely), with home birth it’s the “you, you and you” show. Many times mothers are the first ones to touch their newborn, it’s often their own hands that guide baby out of the womb and into the world.
For those of you who have experienced the benefits of home birth, did I leave anything out? What did you see as some of the greatest benefits?