To Home Birth or not to Home Birth, That is the Question

March 9, 2008

As the time to give birth gets closer, it's very important for women to consider where they want to give birth.  Fortunately, in the world today, women have many choices.  Here is a run-down of the advantages and disadvantages of one birthing location - the home.

The Advantages of Home Birthing

Most women who choose a home birth rave about the experience.  Why?  Home births allow the woman to dictate the type of environment that she wants to have for the birth.  The birth feels more natural and less sterile.  The woman can play soothing music, rent a birthing pool, select the position for the birth and the labor, and so on.  Many women feel pressured in a hospital setting to stay in the bed, as the nurse might desire, or to take medication that is offered.  These are not such pressing issues at home, and the birthing woman can feel more in control of her own birth.  Some women might even end up taking medication in the hospital, even if they weren't planning to, because it's there and it's offered.  At home, these pressures and temptations are not present, and this allows the woman to stay committed to having a natural childbirth experience.  The woman is also assisted by a midwife or birth assistant, people who are committed to helping her to have a beautiful birth at home. They don't suddenly leave because their shift has ended; they are there for the duration of the labor and they want to help the woman to achieve her goal.

There are a number of studies and statistics that support home births as well.  Some statistics show that home births are safer than hospital births for low-risk women who have had decent prenatal, care and who have a qualified midwife or birthing assistant with them.  Similarly, some studies have shown that the there is a reduced risk of infection with a home birth both for the mother and the baby.  Certainly, there is something to be said for cuddling with your baby right after delivery, for as long as you want to, in your own bed and your own environment.

 The Disadvantages of Home Birthing

Along with those who advocate home births, there are, of course, others who see it as a negative option.  Obviously, should the woman start to have any problems, and need a Caesarean section, a forceps delivery or a neonatologist, those things are not available at home.  Should she need these services, or others, she would have to be quickly transferred to a hospital setting.  Many people would find this very unsettling in the middle of a birth, and would argue that it makes more sense to give birth at a hospital, where these services are available.  Some women find it more relaxing to be away from the house for a few days after a birth.  If there are other kids at home, the mother doesn't necessarily get a grace period of rest if she's given birth in the home.  She'll need to make sure to immediately have meals, housekeeping, child care and other logistics taken care of - and these things can be very tiring after giving birth.  At the hospital, she is only responsible for herself and the baby for the first few days.

A home birth requires the woman to have a great deal of trust in her midwife or birthing assistant, and to take responsibility for her own health to a larger degree.  Her care is not under the hands and monitoring of the hospital, and this requires more active participation by the birthing women in decision making processes surrounding her health and care. 

It's possible that the cost of the home birth will not be covered by insurance.  It's very important, therefore, for a birthing mom to look into this before making any decisions and to factor this into her decision making process.

Sometimes, a woman will decide to give birth at the hospital for her first birth.  After experiencing birth and becoming more comfortable with the birthing process, she may opt for a home birth.  Just because a woman decides to birth one way or another this time around, doesn't mean that she needs to make the same decision next time.  Each woman should make a decision that will be the best one for her and her family - and should have faith in that decision through the delivery.

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