Is home birth safe?
Home birth is a safe option for women with “low-risk” pregnancies. Women who fit in this category include those who do not have medical or obstetric risk factors including long-term medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, high blood pressure), infections (e.g., HIV, hepatitis), severe psychiatric disorders, or complications with a current or previous pregnancy (e.g., placenta previa, pregnancy induced hypertension, gestational diabetes).
For women without these risk factors, a recent study confirms that home birth is a safe option. Specifically, as MANA reports, the study found that “[97%] of babies were carried to full-term, they weighed an average of eight pounds at birth, and nearly 98% were being breastfed at the six-week postpartum visit with their midwife. Only 1% of babies required transfer to the hospital after birth, most for non-urgent conditions. Babies born to low-risk mothers had no higher risk of death in labor or the first few weeks of life than those in comparable studies of similarly low-risk pregnancies.”
Is home birth for everyone?
Even for women who qualify as “low-risk,” home birth may not be the best choice. Home birth requires a client who is willing to take charge of their birth experience and is committed to creating a safe and comfortable birth space in their own home. These non-pregnancy related factors may counsel against home birth for some people. For people who feel confident in their homes and in their bodies, however, home birth can provide a wonderful experience. Any midwife you consider hiring should take the time to answer your questions and help you navigate this important decision.
The whole family is included! (Photography by Dianne Hamre)
What does home birth look like?
Home birth gives you the freedom to choose your own experience. Unlike other birth settings, home birth gives you the opportunity to plan the experience you want, including what your birth space will look like (dim lighting? bright lighting? small room? big room?), who will be there (partner only? children? best friend?), and what food will be available (your favorite lasagna? Chinese take out?). You can birth in your own bed, a birth tub, or using a birth stool. It’s up to you.
How does the midwifery model of care differ from the obstetric model of care?
Midwifery care differs from traditional obstetric care in three important ways. First, midwifery care provides individualized, culturally appropriate care that involves significant input and decision-making from the client. Appointments with a midwife generally last about an hour and the entire family is welcome to come (or not—it’s up to the client).
Second, midwifery offers continuity of care for the client. A midwife will meet with the client from the first prenatal visit all the way to six weeks after the birth. Post-partum care includes three home visits in the first week, and several wellness visits in the following weeks.
Finally, midwifery care emphasizes informed consent for the client. Midwives present their clients with the full range of medically appropriate choices and let the client decide.
You can read more about the Midwifery Model of Care on MANA’s website.
What if my partner isn’t supportive?
Home birth is a team decision—a decision between the client and her birth partner. If the whole team is not on board, that tension can create additional stress leading up to and during the birth. A midwife’s job is not to convince anyone that home birth is the best option for them, including the client’s partner. You and your partner should carefully weigh the pros and cons of home birth for your situation, and reach a decision together.
Do I need a doula?
Doulas are an invaluable addition to any birth team, and with so many lovely and experienced doulas in the valley, you are likely to find a good match. Doulas complement your midwife by providing non-medical physical and emotional support to you and your partner during labor. With home birth, a doula will often arrive before the midwife during early active labor.
Many partners find doulas especially helpful as the doula can demonstrate ways the partner can be helpful, supportive, and involved in the birth—a benefit to everyone involved. Doulas can also provide partners with needed respite during longer labors.
Can I have a water birth?
Yes! I’ve attended many water births. I can provide you with resources for birth tub rental or purchase as well as recommendations on additional supplies and things to think about when planning a water birth. For an in-depth look at the current research on water birth, I recommend visiting Evidence Based Birth’s article on the topic.