Considered the norm throughout most of human history and still the norm in many cultures, giving birth at home is a well-practiced tradition. Although, in modern times, as well as in movies and television shows, labor is usually depicted as occurring in a hospital surrounded by a team of medical professionals. However, as more women seek to take control over their labor, and medical practices, technology and other aspects of gynecology continue to improve, more and more women are broadening their expectations of labor and choosing home birth as an option.
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What Exactly Is a Home Birth?
As simple as the name implies, home birth is the practice of delivering your child at home. In order for a home birth to be achieved safely, a medical professional must be present. The three most common options for ensuring that a home birth goes smoothly and result in the best health for both mother and child are the following:
Midwife: By far the most popular of the three options, midwives are medical professionals who specialize in pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum care. Midwives receive a midwifery education based on creating a personalized partnership with their patients to provide advice, counseling, and support throughout the pregnancy and delivery process. This care also includes the medical knowledge to ensure proper prenatal care, the promotion of natural birth, detecting any health concerns or complications of labor, and carrying out emergency measures if needed.
Doula: Doulas (coming from the Greek word for “a woman who serves”) function in many of the same ways that a midwife does. The major difference, however, is that a doula functions, oftentimes, as more of a pregnancy coach, rather than as medical health care provider. With a doula, births often go smoother, faster, and often breastfeeding is easier after birth. Because of their specialties, however, doulas often work best alongside midwives or doctors.
Doctor: Doctors are obviously the most contemporary option. They carry the same knowledge as the midwife, but will know more about the actual medicine behind birth and might be able to catch complications sooner. Unfortunately, many doctors are not able to make trips to a house in order to be present for a home birth, and many prefer to work in the hospital as well.
Regardless of which of the three health care providers you choose, he or she will be there in order to assist you in bringing your bundle of joy into the world. The healthcare provider will also ensure you have received the best prenatal care possible, and ensure the home environment is appropriate in which to deliver a baby. While labor is progressing, these different health providers will also periodically monitor the vitals of the mother and the baby. This is slightly different from in a hospital, as there the vitals will be monitored constantly. Additionally, after birth, the healthcare provider will examine both the mother and the baby, and evaluate the baby’s health. He or she will also be able to determine if hospital care is needed, and enact emergency procedures if needed.
Why Do Women Choose a Home Birth? What Are the Benefits?
So why choose a home birth when you could deliver your child in a hospital surrounded by a team of doctors? Well, it varies from person to person, but there are a few common reasons as to why women choose this option for their delivery.
Cultural tradition: As previously stated, throughout most of human history, home birth has been considered the norm and it remains the norm in many different cultures across the globe. As such, this is a tradition that many women choose to honor. In addition, many women want to incorporate the birth of their new little one into their family life. They want their other children or members of their family to be present in a way that often times they cannot be in a typical hospital setting.
Reclaiming your birth: As medicine improves and delivery becomes more and more of a clinical event, many women feel as if the stereotypical hospital birth has become too distant for them. With the addition of epidurals and other pain medication as well, often time women cannot even truly feel or experience their own labor. In this regard, many women want to reclaim their labor and experience it the way that generations of women in the past have experienced it.
Comfort and control: Related to the idea of reclaiming birth, many women choose a home birth simply because it is more comfortable and allows them more control. Delivering a child in your own home, surrounded by your own things and your loved ones can make your labor much less stressful. A home birth also allows for more control. In a hospital setting, your mobility may be limited, as well as your ability to change position to whatever feels the best. With a home birth, you have the freedom to move as well as the ability to choose the most comfortable birthing position possible. With a home birth, you are able to breastfeed faster as well, working to strengthen the bond between newborn and mother.
History of fast labor: Women with a history of fast labor also often choose home birth. Many times labor duration decreases with multiple births, and a home delivery can guarantee that the child is not born in a risky situation such as on the side of the road.
Lower cost: Many women also choose home birth due to the cost. Without medications, a hospital stay, and having to pay multiple people, a home birth can be economical. On average, a smooth home labor can cost up to 60% less than birth in a hospital.
Why Do Women Not Choose a Homebirth?
Some women do not choose a home birth for several reasons.
-Many are more comfortable with the idea of a birthing team at a hospital.
-If you are diabetic, have pre-eclampsia or other health concerns, a home birth could be too dangerous.
-If you have previously had a C-Section.
-If you are in preterm labor.
-Your partner is not comfortable with home birth.
How to Prepare for Homebirth
So now that you have chosen a home birth, how do you prepare for it? There are several steps you should take if you are considering this option.
Set a birth plan: This is an important preparation for delivery. Will you be attempting a water birth in your home? Do you plan on skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding immediately after birth? What are you willing or not willing to endure during labor?
Find a trained health care provider: Make sure that your midwife or doctor is medically certified and has a working relationship with the local hospital in case of emergency. He or she must have easy access to other medical professionals. If you desire a doula, hire one as well to help coach you through the labor process. Try to limit the number to a maximum of two to three, however, to prevent there not being a clear chain of command to ensure a smooth delivery.
Be prepared for an emergency: While home births are safe, just like in all deliveries, there is a risk that something might go wrong or complications might arise. Just in case, you should have a care bag packed, a plan in place for your partner or other loved ones to meet you at the hospital, and ensure you have access to transportation. Ideally, you will have discussed with your care provider what will trigger a hospital stay.
Choose a pediatrician: Midwives, doulas, and OBGYNs will assist you through the pregnancy process, but once the baby is born, they step out and the care of the child should switch to a pediatrician. However, midwives and doulas will help you to arrange for post-partum help if you need it.
Home births are rising in popularity and it is easy to see why. Not only is there a strong tradition behind them, but there are also several benefits including the comfort of the mother, and being able to reclaim one’s own pregnancy. Improvements in medicine have made it safer to enjoy laboring at home, and now many women are choosing an alternative birthing plan than the stereotypical hospital birth. If this sounds like the right plan for you and your baby, be sure to contact your health provider for additional information.