The decision to have a home birth is an exciting one! Taking control of your birth experience, increasing your likelihood of a natural birth, and birthing in an intimate and familiar environment are just a few of the amazing benefits you will enjoy.

However, it’s true that home birth is far from the norm here in the United States. While the prevalence of home birth is on the rise, it still only accounts for a very small percentage of all births. For this reason, you likely have some curiosity and doubt about if this type of birth is right for you.

Let’s erase the doubt! Is a home birth right for you, momma?

One of the best ways to start answering that question is by looking within and doing a self-assessment of sorts. By asking yourself important questions surrounding your comfort with home birth, your eligibility, and understanding of what’s involved, you’ll be well on your way to a final decision.

A home birth could be right for you if you are having a low-risk pregnancy, have a good support network, want to play an active role in planning and preparing for childbirth, are highly interested in natural birth, and feel confident and comfortable with the idea of birthing at home.

Here you’ll find 11 questions to ask yourself that will help you prepare for your perfect birth story and answer the question of where to give birth.

1. Can I have a home birth?

Before you dive too far into the depths of deciding to have a home birth, it’s a good idea to make sure you are a good candidate for home birth. Unfortunately, not every momma can have a home birth, but for many, it is just as safe an option as a hospital birth.

Home birth outcomes for mommas and babies are sometimes even better than those in the hospital because you avoid the cascade of interventions that so often occur in hospital settings.

What makes you a good candidate for home birth? Here is a list of the typical criteria that makes you eligible for home birth. You’ll notice that some of these things cannot be assessed until much later in pregnancy. Part of planning a home birth is accepting that at any time a hospital birth might be required should something come up.

  • Your pregnancy is considered low-risk
  • You do not have any pre-existing medical conditions
  • You have not had any pregnancy complications arise such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia
  • Your baby is in the optimal position for birth
  • You have made it past 37 weeks
  • You have not gone past 41 weeks
  • You went into labor spontaneously
  • You have not had a previous birth with complications or preterm labor
  • Your midwife has continuously evaluated your eligibility for home birth throughout your pregnancy
  • You are carrying only one child (you may be able to find a midwife who will attend a home birth of multiples)

This checklist pretty much sums up what a home birth midwife will be looking for to determine if you are a candidate for home birth. And as you work towards this decision yourself, you can probably determine pretty quickly if it’s a good fit, from a safety standpoint, for you.

Additional scenarios that would need to be evaluated on a case by case basis include:

  • The desire to have a home birth after a C-section (VBAC home birth)
  • Having a home birth with multiples
  • Having a home birth with a baby that is measuring small or at risk for low birth weight.

Home birth may be possible in these instances, but you will need to find an experienced and qualified midwife that can attend your more specialized home birth.

2. Is home birth possible in my home?

Next, it’s a good idea to think through the logistics of a home birth where you live. Just like making sure you’re a good candidate for home birth, can you actually give birth in your home?

What do I mean by this? Well, if you rent a home, apartment or condo, home birth may be against your lease agreement. While home birth really isn’t as messy as many envision, some landlords explicitly forbid it in rentals. The most by the book way to find out would be to ask your landlord directly.

But then there’s always the old saying: what they don’t know won’t hurt them. They probably won’t ever know, especially if you take careful action in preparing your home for birth. Furthermore, cleaning up most of the mess after birth is one of the things you can expect from your amazing home birth midwife anyways!

If you are renting and do not feel comfortable or that you are legally allowed to have a home birth you have two alternative options:

  • Look into birth centers near you. While not exactly the same as a home birth, it will not be a hospital setting
  • Look for midwifery groups or birth centers that offer apartments or condos for use for private births. It’s basically a home birth in a borrowed home which could be your next best option!

3. How far do I live from the hospital?

No momma making their home birth plan wants to end up with a hospital transfer, but it is always best to plan for a worst case, or even an alternate scenario. When choosing to have a home birth you should factor in travel time to the hospital.

Emergency transfers to the hospital during home births account for only 0-5% of all home birth hospital transfers. Far more common, are hospital transfers due to stalled or excessively long labors. However, in the rare event of an emergency, you will need to get to a hospital as quickly as possible.

4. Is my partner supportive of a home birth?

The decision to have a home birth is one that should be made with your partner. While you are the birthing momma, it is also your partner’s birth experience and their comfort in the type of birth is important.

Having a partner that is adamantly opposed to home birth, or is filled with fear and anxiety surrounding home birth, will not make for a positive labor and birth story. It will be difficult for them to bring the energy and support needed to you on the big day.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get your partner on board with the idea of home birth! Some great ways to start:

  • Educate them on home birth safety and look at natural birth stats together
  • Meet with a home birth midwife and ask lots of questions
  • Talk to couples that have had positive home birth experiences
  • Take a natural childbirth class together
  • Learn more about home birth together by watching documentaries and reading books

5. Do I have a good home birth support system?

Two of the big differences between home birth and hospital birth are:

  1. You will need to assemble your own birth team
  2. You will not have constant access to professionals in the days immediately following birth

As you make the decision to have a home birth you will need to assemble a birth team and support system to make it a reality. At the minimum, this involves having your partner on board with home birth and finding an excellent home birth midwife. Additionally, it might include a birth doula, and notifying close family and friends of your decision so that they can support you in other ways.

After a home birth, you are (obviously) at home! There is no hospital stay where a medical team is constantly barging in and checking you and baby’s vitals (a huge perk of home birth for many!) but this means you will need to have an extra understanding of red flags to look out for. Prior to your birth, you should arrange for a pediatric home visit.

You’ll also have an easier time recovering after your home birth with great postpartum support systems in place. So thinking about the support network you have around you, and the team you need to assemble is important before planning a home birth.

6. Do I understand the cons associated with home birth?

As you continue to answer the question, “Is a home birth right for me?”, it’s important to understand the risk factors. On the whole, if you are considered a good candidate for home birth, there aren’t too many perceived risks associated with birthing at home vs. in a hospital.

However, thinking through the pros and cons of home birth is an important step before your final decision about where to give birth.

Some of the main cons you might face when it comes to home birth are:

  • It may not be covered by insurance (but this doesn’t mean it will be more expensive than hospital birth! Seriously! Read about the cost of home birth here)
  • Home birth is not as accepted in mainstream culture
  • It’s not an option for every momma, and you may need to change your plan late in pregnancy
  • The 0-5% chance of an emergency hospital transfer is a possible risk (source)
  • Slightly higher rate of perinatal deaths in home births, but still extremely low in both settings

7. Do I feel comfortable taking a leading role throughout my pregnancy and birth?

One reason that many mommas love home birth is the control they have over their pregnancy and birth experience. They feel heard and honored throughout the process and know that their birth plans will be upheld to the best of everyone’s ability.

However, you need to think about if you will enjoy this kind of control.

  • Are you comfortable taking a leading role in your prenatal care and decisions surrounding birth?
  • Are you willing and able to put time and effort into assembling an amazing birth team and researching birth decisions?
  • Remember that you will also be responsible for preparing your birth space and gathering supplies for birth.

Your midwife, while there to answer all questions and provide guidance, won’t tell you what to do at any step of the way. You will be calling all the shots. And these are exactly the reasons many home birth mommas love the experience!

8. Mentally, am I excited about natural birth?

Generally speaking, a home birth is a natural birth. So it is very important that you are excited about the idea of a natural birth if you decide to give birth at home. Approaching home birth with a mindset of trust and confidence in your body’s ability to birth naturally and a general interest in natural childbirth and breastfeeding will make your experience more positive.

If you are excited about natural birth and home birth, but have some (very normal!) anxiety as birth approaches, a childbirth class geared toward natural birth will help immensely! Another great way to check-in with yourself mentally on where you stand on the idea of natural birth is to read books about natural birth.

9. Am I ready to deal with society’s reaction to my home birth?

Planned home birth accounts for less than 2% of all births in the United States which makes it far from the norm in most communities. I hope that you are surrounded with people that will support your decision to give birth at home, but part of the reality of planning a home birth is the nay-sayers.

Please don’t let this be the reason you don’t have a home birth! But I had to include it on the list because it is something you will undoubtedly face as you share your plans.

10. Do I have a midwife and birthing team that I love?

This is a question that you will likely ask yourself as you begin the process of planning your home birth. And it’s important to constantly check in with yourself about this. Your home birth is your unique experience and you should feel confident with every aspect.

Your home birth midwife should be someone you trust and believe in. They should put you at ease. You should be excited about having them in your birth story. The same goes for birth doulas or any other support people you plan to have at your birth.

If the answer to this question is ever a no, speak up and make a change. This is your home birth, momma!

11. Do I feel comfortable and confident in my decision to birth at home?

The final question on this list is another one that you should revisit throughout your pregnancy and even during labor. Remember that you can always change your mind and head to a birth center or hospital birth at any time.

The questions on this list will help you decide if a home birth is right for you. They should get you thinking about your own personality and what goes into planning a home birth. This self-assessment should leave you feeling more confident in your decision about where to give birth.

Have another question to add to the list or looking for more advice? Leave a comment below to keep the conversation going.

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