For many, the idea of childbirth conjures up images of a sterilized hospital room, with the mother attended by nurses and doctors, while friends and relatives pace the waiting room. In our modern times, hospital birth seems like the only safe option expectant mothers have for delivery. Proponents of home birth believe that delivering your child at home, attended by trained nurses and nurse midwives, is just as safe, if not safer, and more emotionally satisfying than a hospital delivery.
For millennia, mothers have delivered their babies at home — whether it be a cave, a tent or on the open prairie. While medical advances are undeniably beneficial to both mother and child, many believe that medical intervention is not always required. Advocates of home birth believe that, while modern medicine is useful and often necessary, most mothers who have had a healthy, complication free pregnancy can safely deliver a child at home.
Proponents of home birth suggest that the United States’ poor ranking in infant mortality on a global scale is in part due to the overuse of medical interventions in hospital deliveries. One study that is often cited shows that the lowest rate of infant mortality in the US is in the state of Vermont, which boasts the highest rate of home birth. While this statistic can be attributed in part to other factors, such as good prenatal care, it also provides support for home birth. Studies have shown that home births are as safe, if not safer, than hospital births among healthy candidates.
Most major medical and physician organizations are firm in their stance that a hospital birth is safest due to the unpredictable nature of childbirth. In a hospital, there are trained obstetricians, anesthesiologists, surgeons and pediatricians standing by in case a complication arises. Women who are good candidates for a home birth are those who don’t have medical conditions such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or high blood pressure, and who have not had a previous cesarean delivery. For women who have had premature labor or are pregnant with multiples, or for women whose baby is in the breech position by 37 weeks, a hospital delivery is recommended.
Anesthesiologists and home birth do not go together, which means that, if you choose home birth, you must commit to delivering without an epidural or other pain medications. A certified nurse midwife (CNM) or certified direct entry midwife (CPM or CM) should be in attendance. Some doctors do home deliveries, but make sure that your insurance will cover a home birth. The practitioner attending your delivery should come prepared with the proper equipment for emergency care for you and your infant if an emergency occurs. In addition, there should be a backup plan for emergency transfer to a nearby hospital if there’s a problem.
One aspect of a hospital birth that many mothers who opt for home birth miss out on is the excellent labor and postnatal care they receive at the hospital. If you decide to deliver at home, you should arrange postnatal care to monitor you and your baby’s recovery, as well as someone to care for the house and family while you recuperate.