Natural childbirth is an amazing feat. Women have been giving birth to their babies without epidurals or other pain medications for centuries. While our modern-day society has led many astray into the belief that birthing at home without a doctor is inherently unsafe, study after study continues to prove that isn’t true. (Source)

Is Home Birth Right For You?

There are some vital questions you need to ask yourself if you’re pondering the idea of giving birth at home. The answers to these questions will make it quite clear what birthing situation would best suit you.

  • What kind of environment would make you most comfortable?
  • Would you be comfortable having a midwife deliver your child?
  • Is water birth something you deeply desire trying to do?
  • Are you prepared to birth without pain medications?
  • How far from the hospital are you in case of an emergency?
  • Is your pregnancy considered low-risk?
  • Does your baby have any abnormality that would require immediate intervention?

As you can see there are many determining factors when it comes to home birth vs giving birth in the hospital or at a birthing center. If you are convinced that home birth may be best for you, there are more things to consider before jumping into that birth pool head-first.

What Do I Need To Know Before Having A Home Birth?

Forging ahead on this path, home birth is always best carried out from a fully informed position. Mom and Dad should know what they’re going into with home birth just as much as a hospital birth. Just because there are no nasty nurses or bullying doctors involved in a home birth doesn’t mean parents won’t have to make critical decisions that can be stressful to make.

Are You Informed On Protocols Used In An Emergency?

Are you comfortable enough with your midwife to assume she’s got it all under control? Or do you want explanations upfront about what she would do if certain situations arose? For example, if your baby turned breech or was in an otherwise unstable lie, would she suggest methods to help turn the baby, like inversion or moxibustion? Or is she fairly hands-off and less skilled for breech birth and would refer you to a doctor for a hospital birth—and possibly, a Cesarean?

What if you began to hemorrhage at birth? What is her first line of defense? Does she explain before acting? Are you comfortable with someone who opts for herbs or sublingual placenta before Pitocin? These are things to consider in advance of them potentially happening. Know your midwife well.

If the baby needs to be resuscitated, are you confident in your midwife’s ability to do so? What if you or the baby need to be transferred? You’ll want to know what the protocol is and whether you would have to be separated.

Does Your Birth Team Support Your Views?

Usually, a midwife isn’t the only person by your side during labor. She may also have a student midwife or two that is training alongside her. Are you comfortable with these other women attending your birth? Keep in mind that they will be attending appointments throughout your pregnancy, too. So, you will come to know them well.

When you’re interviewing midwives, it’s a good idea to ask whether there will be students present. You may also inquire as to whether your midwife is a Certified Nurse Midwife or Certified Professional Midwife. The differences between the two are important for you to understand when assessing both your own comfort and that of you’re partner. CNM’s attend roughly 8 percent of American births. (Source) Whereas, CPM statistics are lesser known and assumed to be fewer.

You may also want to ask your potential midwife what a typical appointment with her would be like and at what frequency you would see her throughout pregnancy.

What About A Doula?

A doula may also be a part of your birth team. Have you considered how hiring a doula may be beneficial to you during labor? They can aid in serving you and your partner so that you both feel supported during this exciting but sometimes scary time in your life.

Is Your Partner On Board For Home Birth?

Speaking of your partner, are they on board for a home birth? Is he having any doubts? Make sure he isn’t just going along in the early weeks to offer you support. He needs his questions answered, too. It is important that he is comfortable with this process so that he doesn’t become stressed or anxious in your final weeks of pregnancy—or during your birth—when you need him the most.

What Does Your Family Think?

Friends, family and other loved ones may mean well when they warn you about your decision to birth at home. They don’t typically intend to impose emotional worries on you that aren’t factual. In reality, there usually know not what they do.

They aren’t as informed on the topic of home birth or the safety statistics surrounding it. Instead, they’ve been schooled on this topic only within the confines of the mainstream media headlines they pick up on from time to time. Some of them also may think that hospitals were the primary solution to every maternal death that used to occur—as though they still don’t.

Truth be told, the United States holds the worst maternal death rate among all developed nations at 26.4 deaths per 100,000 birthing women. (Source) In fact, while most other developed nations have seen maternal fatality rates decrease in recent years, the U.S. rate has been on the incline. (Source)

So, know that your loved ones only have your best interests in mind, but they just aren’t coming from an informed standpoint. What can you do? School them! You may or may not end up with their support. Prepare for that.

Can You Afford A Home Birth?

The average cost of a home birth is variable. It can range between $2000 and $4000 rather easily. The price often depends on the region that you live in, but it may also depend on the experience that a midwife has. There are avenues you can take to save a few bucks here and there.

Rent A Birthing Pool Versus Buying One

Birth pools can cost a pretty penny. You need to ask yourself a few questions before deciding which home birth pool is best for you:

  • Are you planning on using your birthing pool for more than one birth?
  • Would you be comfortable with renting your pool out to others who want to use it for their home water births?
  • Does your birth pool need to be big enough to allow for your partner to get in too?

If you aren’t planning to use your birth pool more than once, it might be wise to pay a few hundred bucks to rent one versus up to $2000 to buy one. If you’re planning to have multiple home births, or you’re okay with recouping some of the expense of buying an expensive home birth pool by renting to out to other pregnant mommas, then buying one might not be a terrible idea.

Barter With The Birth Team

Often, midwives and other birth workers will barter with you to offset some of the costs of their services. For example, if your doula is all about crocheting and you sell hand-dyed yard, it’s a win-win to trade some of your gift in part for some of her’s. You might not dye yarn, but you get the point. The same rule applies to your midwife, birth photographer, placenta encapsulators and more.

Carefully Review Your Insurance Plan

Believe it or not, some insurance companies will reimburse for home birth expenses, though it’s often only allowed if the birth was attended to by a Certified Nurse Midwife versus a CPM. Make sure you’re clear on this from the outset of choosing your midwife if you’re planning to claim the cost on your insurance.

Usually, the midwife can give you the billing information or invoice and you can submit the payments you made to the insurance company to attempt to get reimbursement. It’s not common, but it does happen.

Bow Out Of The Baby Shower

You can also forego your baby shower and ask for monetary donations toward your birth instead. Or you can still arrange a get-together—however formal or informal that you desire—but ask that no gifts be brought and that they just bring a monetary contribution or donate to an online account toward your birth expenses. This also shows your loved ones just how seriously committed you are to your home birth plan.

What Does Home Birth Look Like

No, it’s not just a crunchy—AKA hippie—momma chanting in a pool of water with candles lit all over the room. It might be the most mainstream of moms in any other sense as she stands in her bathroom and births her child into her own arms. It may also be mom laying alongside dad in the bed their child was conceived in. It might even be a mother birthing her child in her own bathtub.

What You’ll Hear From Fans Of Home Birth

  • Home birth comes in many forms, and for the low-risk pregnant woman, it is safe.
  • It is the best way to birth
  • They’ll never birth any other way

What You’ll Hear From Naysayers

Of course, not everyone is keen on the idea of natural childbirth—whether home or not. Some of those folks likely stick to their “home birth is dangerous” narrative just to make themselves feel better. It’s all about them and has nothing to do with you and what you’re doing. Truly, the old adage of what people think of you being none of your business really applies here.

  • Women used to die all the time giving birth at home
  • Why would you ever want to do that?
  • You won’t be able to do it; you’ll be screaming for an epidural

The Truth Is Somewhere In The Middle

Neither of these camps is completely right, honestly. Home birth isn’t right for everyone. Some women do need to birth in the hospital for safety reasons. Others just aren’t in love with the idea of a drug-free birth. That’s okay. But it’s equally as important that we note it’s okay for those who are to pursue such.

So, Is It Safe?

One study carried out on nearly 17,000 women notes that home birth does indeed reduce the number of interventions employed during birth and it does so without increasing the risks of negative outcomes for mom and baby. (Source)

Does It Have To Be The Hospital Or The Home?

There is a middle ground for mothers who don’t know where they lie. They may fear the worst of the birth stories, having heard horrific tales from friends about birthing in a hospital and being pushed into interventions they didn’t need.

Others may wonder whether they can hack the drug-free birth plan. Or if they even really want to. The birth center may be a great middle-of-the-road option for those mothers to really “test the waters.”

Case In Point, My Own Births

I had no doubt that home birth was in my future but that didn’t mean I didn’t have pit-stops along the way. My first two births were planned to be in the hospital the entire time. My third was planned for a birth center and I still ended up in a hospital. My fourth and hopefully all future babies… at home. I wasn’t less satisfied with my hospital births than I was my home birth. But I was also adequately prepared and not afraid to say no to provider recommendations and stand my ground. I admit it did require that fortitude on my part.

There were pros and cons to every avenue I’ve taken. But for me, the pros of home birth far outweigh the cons of it. Mostly because I can only come up with one con. So let’s put that on the table.

I thought about this before I even got pregnant with baby number four: the postpartum stage and settling in after birth. It was admittedly nice to have those nurses on hand after I had my other babies. They take care of you, ya know? They tend to every need at the push of a button. But what my home birth taught me is that I didn’t actually need that kind of care. I just think I want to be doted on from time to time as a mom of four. Can ya blame me?

The pros remain numerous. I was able to be in my most comfortable space to give birth. I can stare at that space in our living room every day and remember that moment. I know no one died in my clothes the day before. I wasn’t just a number in line on a balance sheet for the big business of birth at a hospital that day. I digress. Home birth has lots of pros for me, and they may be different for you. What matters is that you take time to recognize both sides of the coin as it pertains to you.

The Reality Of Home Birth

The truth is, home birth just kicks things up a notch. It offers more support, and that allows you to be more comfortable. You will be at home and thus feel more at home. This means you won’t hold back if screaming is your thing. If you curse like a sailor, it’s okay. If you poop in the birthing pool, that’s alright, too.

The only people that will be aware of it are those you’ve specifically entrusted to support you through this amazing transition in your life. You will have spent months building relationships with your birth team. It will feel like a room full of sisters and family more so than a room full of metal instruments and fluorescent lights. Sound appealing yet?

What To Expect

Do you know what to expect when your birthing at home?

There Might Be Some Mess

Birth is fairly messy. That should surprise no one. When you’re planning to give birth at home, it can be worrisome to some to think about where all that mess will go. How do you keep it contained outside of the hospital?

Actually, the answer to that is pretty simple, Chux pads and lots of towels do most of the job. Water birth obviously contains much of the mess in the birthing pool—which is easy to scoop out with a net before using a reverse pump to empty it through a hose and down your sink drain. Extra protection for your bed or floor comes in the form of plastic painter’s tarps or a shower curtain.

What Comes Next?

Home birth—and natural birth specifically—tends to produce pretty impressive outcomes when compared to a medicated birth. That’s a big part of the reason many women are willing to endure the pain that comes with it. Here’s a little bit of what you can expect after you’ve had a home birth.

Better Birth And Postpartum Possibilities

The evidence is rather clear. Repeated surveys and studies have touted great success in improving birth outcomes for both mom and baby by decreasing the number of interventions being employed during birth. The more interventions there are, the less progress appears to be made in terms of improving birth for mothers and their children. (Source) In addition, births that utilize humanized models of care appear to trump biomedical methods. (Source)

The Journal of Perinatal Education notes, “Confident women who are supported and encouraged and who enjoy the freedom to tap into their own wisdom find deep satisfaction in giving birth naturally. The process itself prepares mother and baby perfectly in every way to continue on their journey together.” (Source)

Breast Is Best Too

Studies have shown that women who receive epidurals during labor have poorer breastfeeding outcomes. (Source) Because epidurals can interfere with breastfeeding so much, foregoing those medicated pain relief options give you the upper hand.

You’ll also be able to rest far better and eating more nourishing foods than a hospital would normally supply. All of these things can only work in your favor when it comes to establishing a nursing relationship with your new bundle of joy.

Final Tips For Birthing At Home

Remember that you aren’t the only person going through this birth. Your parents and in-laws may need reassuring evidence that their grandchild will be born in a safe manner. Invite them to one of your midwife meetings and they just might change their unsupportive tune.

Your partner is also going through this with you. He needs to know you appreciate his role in this birth. Of course, if you have other children, you’ll need to prepare them for the birth, too. Above all else, make sure you’re confident about your birthing choices and the people on your team; the rest tends to fall into place.

What are your thoughts on having a home birth? Let us know in the comments if you think a home birth is for you or what concerns you might have that we haven’t addressed.

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