Who Chooses Homebirth?
All kinds of women choose homebirth. There is no “home birth type”. Women of all education levels, all income levels, in a variety of personal and family situations, choose home birth. Homebirth is a good choice for you if you are healthy, would like to have your baby naturally and would like the personalized care of a midwife.
Who Shouldn’t Have a Homebirth?
If you have a medical condition, like high blood pressure, symptoms of pre-eclampsia, or gestational diabetes that is not controlled by diet, you should not have a home birth. If you go into labor prematurely, you should not have a homebirth.
You may choose home birth with a midwife if you want:
- a natural birth
- more control over your birth
- to know for sure who will care for you in labor
- to avoid unnecessary medications and procedures
- the safety of a drug free birth for your baby
- to know your baby won’t be separated from you after s/he’s born
- more time during prenatal visits to ask questions
A Personal Story
I had my first baby at home 32 years ago. The most common observation from friends was “You’re so brave to have your baby at home. I’d be too nervous to do that”. For myself, I felt safer at home. I knew I had a big and difficult job to do, and the thought of doing it in a place that was unfamiliar to me (the hospital), with people I didn’t know (doctors and midwives rotating who’s on call, and nurses I didn’t know), and procedures I might not want (being hooked up to machines, having to stay on the bed to push my baby out, episiotomy) — it all made me nervous. More than nervous. Scared. How would I ever do this really hard thing in that setting? It seemed I’d be stacking the cards against myself.
At home, I would have privacy, go at my own pace, be surrounded by people I knew well, be able to move around freely, eat and drink as I wanted to, and have more control over my situation. I knew I wanted natural childbirth (no drugs) and did not want to have my baby separated from me at any time. Having my baby at home seemed like the best choice for getting what I wanted. So I found a midwife.
What Do Midwives Do?
Home birth midwives are trained to guide healthy pregnancy and labor, to advise women on how to eat well and reduce stress, and to monitor for problems. Midwives know that taking care of yourself reduces the risk of problems in pregnancy and labor.
Midwives provide prenatal care on the same schedule as a doctor or hospital midwife, but allow more time per appointment to answer questions and get to know you. For the mom, knowing your midwife well means that in labor, you feel safe and comfortable, and can focus on the job at hand. For the midwife, knowing you well means she can be more helpful to you during the hard work of labor.
Perks at Home
Having your baby at home, with the help of a midwife, who is specially trained for helping you get your baby out without the use of drugs has lots of perks.
First, a natural birth in your own home protects all those good hormones that your body automatically makes in labor. Medications used in labor can interfere with the normal flow of hormones, which can interfere with the progress of your labor. These hormones make it easier to cope with labor.
At home, your baby is never separated from you. When your baby is born, s/he is put immediately on your chest. This skin-to-skin contact protects the baby, by helping to regulate his/her body temperature, blood sugar, breathing and heart rate. Like all mammals, baby does best and is happiest being close to mom.
The newborn exam is done on your bed with your baby in your arms or right next to you. Midwives know that breastfeeding is more likely to be successful if mom and baby are not separated, especially in the critical first couple hours after birth. The baby’s instincts work best when s/he has skin-to-skin contact with mom.
Unless there’s a problem, the cord is not cut until the placenta comes out. In those first minutes after the baby is born, the cord is still providing oxygen, and blood to the baby, while s/he is making the transition from living in water inside the womb to breathing air outside the womb. It gives the baby a gentler transition and provides a little extra insurance if the baby was stressed at all coming down the birth canal.
Putting eye ointment in the baby’s eyes, giving the baby a shot of Vitamin K, and other routine hospital procedures, are choices for you to make or not, when you have your baby at home.
If for some reason during the labor, you decide you want to go to the hospital to give birth, your midwife goes with you, and stays with you as your support person.
For more information about midwifery care and homebirth:
- The Business of Being Born (film, see on Netflix)
- Midwives of Maine
- Maine Association of Certified Professional Midwifes