From the freedom to walk around to the ability to control more or less who is in the room and what goes on during delivery, there are loads of reasons why a lot of mom-to-be’s consider giving birth from home. Home births and natural births are closely related—if you’re looking for information specifically about natural births, take a look at our posts on that here.
Just as comfort and control can be major benefits of a home birth, there are plenty of other things to consider, both pros and cons. Let’s take a quick overview of everything you should know when considering a home birth.
What is a home birth?
The term is pretty straightforward: a home birth is a process of giving birth in a residential space. This space doesn’t have to be your home, which is an important detail we’ll return to later.
The idea of giving birth at home and, specifically, not in a hospital, can be attractive for lots of reasons. The biggest benefits of giving birth from home are the levels of comfort and control you can experience that might not be offered in a hospital setting. Additionally, you avoid the nervousness and anxiety that comes with being in a hospital in general.
Part of having more control is choosing (to an extent) what kind and how much medicine you’ll be taking. Opting for little or no medicine falls under the lines of a natural birth and can help you have a bit more intimate of an experience with the process and your newborn child, but it certainly comes at the cost of feeling all of the pain involved in the process.
The concept of being in the comfort of your own home isn’t quite enough to make the decision, however. There are plenty of benefits, risks, and requirements to consider before making a choice.
The benefits of a home birth
Comfort and control are the two biggest benefits of a home birth, and they span a wide range of details. As far as comfort goes, a home birth will spare you the intimidating and anxious atmosphere of a hospital. Apart from the psychological aspects of being in a hospital, some mothers prefer home births as they put their newborn babies at a lower risk of coming into contact with something that will make them sick.
Physical comfort is also a huge factor. In a hospital, you’ll likely be confined to a bed. At home, however, you can have the freedom to move around as you might need. While this might seem strange at first, the ability to pace up and down the hall and around the room, according to some moms, helps manage the pain and keep you in the right headspace. The freedom to take a warm shower during the process if you please is another great benefit.
Another pro for the home birth is the control over the space. In a hospital, you’ll likely be very limited on how many people and who can be in the space at any given time, especially with a pandemic around. At home, you’ll likely have much more freedom to decide who accompanies you and, in turn, this can help form a more intimate bond between the baby and your birth partner.
The risks of a natural birth
There certainly are some great benefits to a home birth, but there are some risks to consider, as well. Most of these risks work out to be health-related.
Perhaps the most important question that more or less encompasses everything is: what happens if something goes wrong? Without a doubt, one of the biggest benefits of giving birth in a hospital is that, should anything go wrong, you’re surrounded by medical professionals and equipment trained and designed to save your or your baby’s life in a moment’s notice. At home, even if the medical professional is present and trained, they simply won’t have all of the equipment and medicine they would have at the hospital.
The risk of complications, and specifically perinatal death, goes up significantly during a home birth, and likely specifically for this reason. Should anything go wrong that requires you or your child (or both) to be rushed to the hospital, suddenly not only are the medical professionals and equipment variables, so is traffic and the driver’s ability. While this risk can’t be entirely avoided during a home birth, it can be lowered. Returning to a previous comment, the home birth doesn’t necessarily have to happen at your home. While your home will probably feel the most comfortable and natural, if you live particularly far away from the nearest hospital, it might be a good idea to consider a friend or family’s house. Diminishing the distance between your delivery place and the nearest hospital can be a deciding factor in whether complications become too severe or not.
Home births aren’t for everyone
Having said all of this, even after weighing the risks and benefits completely, a home birth might still not be right for you. Any risk of complications should be analyzed carefully as it can be, quite literally, a matter of life or death. Consider avoiding a home birth if any of these apply to you:
- You’re expecting more than a single child
- You are preterm
- You have experienced pregnancy complications
- You are considered overweight or have gained too much weight during pregnancy
- You have a baby in the breech position, or you need a C-section for any reason
- You are a group B strep carrier
For a more extensive list of things to consider, and to ask specifically if a home birth is for you, make sure to talk to your practitioner.