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Is a Home Birth for You?

Katlyn Joy |13, December 2011


Once upon a time, home births were the only types of births. Not until the early 1900's did women give birth in hospitals. It was considered a natural event not a medical one. Increasingly, medical professionals took over the process with increased technology and medical interventions.

With those changes came both positive and negative effects for mothers and infants. Many women in recent years have responded to the changes by taking over what once was solely in their domain. Due to women's insistence on having a voice in their labor and birth, doulas, birthing centers and natural childbirth have increased. Another aspect of that return to a more natural birth process is the rise of home births.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement in February of 2011 on the topic of planned home births. While they state the increased risk of a home birth as being two to three-fold for infant deaths, they also recognize the right of woman to choose for themselves the best birthing situation based on recent evidence regarding potential risks and benefits.

Choosing a Home Birth

Are you a good candidate for a home birth? First, you'll want to want this for yourself. Don't be bullied into a birthing plan that maybe fit your sister, cousin, or best friend if it's just not you. If your partner is extremely against the idea despite all the evidence or information you provide, it's going to be a tough go at best.

However, should this be an option you both are passionate about, you should look further to see if home birthing is a good match for you.

1. Is your pregnancy considered high-risk due to conditions such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, chronic conditions such as heart disease or seizure disorders, or problems with the infant's health? If so home birth is not a good match as you need the immediate availability of specialized medical help and support.

2. Is your pregnancy past the normal gestational period, for instance you are now approaching your 42nd week? If so, you need to go with a medical facility equipped for special needs.

3. Are you carrying multiples, even twins? A high number of multiple births require special assistance during labor and often after birth for the infants.

4. Is your baby breech? While some health professionals will allow certain breech babies to be delivered vaginally, this is a delicate procedure and may require a last minute emergency cesarean which is not possible at home. Time is too short in these cases to risk a home birth.

5. Have you given birth previously via c-section? While often you may be able to deliver vaginally, the risk of uterine rupture is a contraindication against a home birth. The risk is too high with this type of delivery anywhere but a hospital.

6. Are you experiencing a preterm labor? Giving birth prematurely is definitely a situation requiring a medical facility over a home based birth.

7. Do you live within a reasonable distance of a hospital in case transfer is necessary?

Reasons for Transfer to Hospital

Sometimes a planned home birth must be adjusted to a hospital birth after all. Approximately 40 percent of first time moms and 10 percent of women who have given birth previously require a transfer to a medical facility after beginning to birth at home. Reasons for this occurring include

- Failure of labor to progress/maternal exhaustion.

- Meconium or fecal waste shows up in the amniotic fluid, indicating possible fetal distress.

- Placental problems such as placental abruption arise, where the placenta shears away from the uterine wall creating a grave situation for mother and child.

- The umbilical prolapses into your vagina during labor creating an emergency situation.

- Problems with the baby's vital signs such as a too high or too low heart rate.

- Concerns over mother's health due to bleeding/hemorrhage or elevated or severe drops in blood pressure.

Reasons for a Home Birth

With all the potential risks, why do some couples still opt for a home birth? Some reasons cited include the ability to birth in a comfortable and familiar environment, surrounded by loved ones increases one's feelings of ease. A more relaxed mom results in a less stressful birth. Medical interventions are kept to a minimum in home births. Unnecessary episiotomies, cesareans, epidurals and other medical processes are unheard of in home births. Costs are lower as you'll need only pay a doula and or midwife for services. Women who give birth in a home setting feel more empowered and often better able to cope with their birth.

Many mothers feel like Maggie, an experienced labor and delivery nurse in Alton, Illinois. "I gave birth to my first child in a hospital and felt like I was treated like a patient. With my later three sons, I gave birth at home. Granted it's only two minutes away from the hospital, but I felt in control and peaceful with those later births. I wouldn't trade those memories."

Related Articles

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20 Labor Day Must Haves and What to Leave Home

Home Births on the Increase, AAP Issues Guidelines For Newborns

How Much Does it Cost to Give Birth in the US?

Water Birth: The Risks and Benefits


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