If you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, you probably have a whole load of questions about this journey you’re on.
Pregnancy and birth are so exciting, you’re about to become a parent! This is one of the biggest transformations someone can go through, and you want all the support you can get along the way.
One form of support is through education. Education on how your body is changing through pregnancy, what to think about before you become a parent, and of course – what is birth going to be like?
Since The Beginning of Time
Up until recently, babies were pretty much always born at home. Changes in culture and the medical industry have created a shift where hospital births are now the norm in many areas of the world, while home births are now considered uncommon or even taboo.
Home Births are fairly common in countries like the UK and the Netherlands, but not everywhere. We are, however, starting to see a rise in popularity in home births in other places, but it doesn’t come without its questions and concerns.
Let’s take a look at them.
What is a Homebirth?
First off, what is a homebirth? Quite simply, it’s laboring and giving birth in the comfort of your home.
For the sake of this conversation, we’re only going to be talking about planned home births with a licensed midwife or OB/GYN who attends home births, and not “free births” or unattended home births.
Isn’t Home Birth Dangerous?
The biggest concern with home births is safety. What if something happens?
The fact of the matter is, that most birth emergencies don’t happen all of a sudden. The majority of the time, they happen gradually and providers have warning signs well before an actual emergency occurs.
A recent study in the U.S. found that only 12% of home birth birthing people had to transfer, with only one-fourth of those transfers being urgent. The most common reasons people transferred were “failure to progress” (their body wasn’t dilating naturally), desire for pain relief, and exhaustion.
Another thing that many people don’t realize is that midwives are trained, medical professionals.
Midwives know what signs to watch for, are experts in facilitating unmedicated births, and bring safety equipment with them like baby monitors, sterile instruments, necessary medications, emergency haemorrhage medication, oxygen tanks, sutures for tearing, and sometimes IV fluids.
A good midwife will also have a clear plan for if you need to transfer to the hospital.
It’s helpful when interviewing midwives, to ask them about their relationship with local hospitals, their transfer rate, if they stay with you when you transfer, and at what point they would decide to transfer.
Not everyone is eligible for home birth in the first place. Typically midwives will only take on “low risk” homebirth patients.
The criteria for what is considered “low risk” varies from country to country, and even within countries, as well as between providers.
You might not be eligible for a home birth if you:
- Have had a prior C-section
- Have active genital herpes
- Have gestational diabetes
- Are pregnant with multiples
- Your baby is “breech” (Its head is not facing down into your pelvis)
- Have any serious medical conditions like lung, heart, kidney, blood clotting conditions, or preeclampsia
- Go into labor under 37 weeks pregnant
- Are over 42 weeks pregnant
What Are The Benefits of a Homebirth?
Why might someone want a homebirth?
Everyone has their own reasons, here are some of the most common ones:
- You get to be in your own space
- There are no distractions from bright lights, beeping monitors, and other hospital noises
- Feeling safer at home
- You get to labor and birth where you want (the toilet, your bed, outside)
- Avoid unnecessary interventions and a decreased risk of C-section
- Privacy, no random strangers coming into your birth space
- Less likely to be separated from baby after birth
- More options like water birth and delayed cord-cutting
- More people can be present for the birth, including children
- A decreased risk of infection
- Previous traumatic experience or birth at the hospital
- Do not want to be medically managed
If homebirth feels right for you, then honoring your wishes is a benefit in itself.
Is Homebirth Covered By Insurance?
Price is one of the biggest obstacles to home birth, especially in the U.S.
The price of home birth depends on where you live, and it may or may not be covered by insurance.
You will also need to purchase supplies like towels, sheets, mattress protectors, snacks and drinks, and a birth tub if desired.
Do I Have Other Options?
Depending on where you live, you might have other options besides the hospital and being at home.
There are a growing number of freestanding birth centers (not affiliated with a hospital), as well as hospital birth centers. While finances and availability mean that these options might not be accessible to everyone, it does give people greater options when creating a birth preferences plan.
Your Body Your Choice
There’s a birth work saying “Your body, your baby, your choice.” This rings true when deciding where you want to give birth.
Birth is unpredictable and things do happen, but if you have a “low risk” pregnancy, and the desire to give birth at home – then you should have the choice to do so.
No matter where you end up giving birth, know that you did the right thing for you and your baby, and that’s what matters.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.