A planned home birth can be a rewarding experience. But it’s important that you consider the benefits and drawbacks, plan accordingly, and understand the risks if this is an option you’re considering.
Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of a planned home birth. You’ll need to work closely with your doctor so you can make the best and most informed decision for you and your family.
A planned home birth means you’ll give birth at home instead of a hospital or birthing center. You’ll still need the assistance of someone experienced and qualified during labor and delivery. This may include, a certified nurse midwife, a certified midwife, a midwife whose education and licensure meets international standards, or a doctor who practices obstetrics.
If you’re considering a home birth, discuss it with your doctor. They should be able to explain what you can expect during labor and delivery. They should also talk with you about potential complications and how they would be managed in a home setting.
Your doctor should be very honest with you about possible risks. Planned home births are associated with double to triple the risk of infant death or severe injury than births planned at hospitals.
That statistic may sound startling, but even with that increase, the risk of infant death with a planned home birth is low. If you’re a good candidate for a home birth, the best thing to do is start researching and planning.
It is not safe for all women to give birth at home. For example, women who have had a prior C-section, or who are pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets) should not have a home birth. Check with your healthcare provider to see if a home birth is an option for you.
Be aware that even with a planned home birth, your doctor or midwife may recommend that you be moved to a hospital after labor begins.
This recommendation might be made for the following reasons:
- You have high blood pressure.
- You desire pain relief.
- Your baby is not positioned correctly.
- You have vaginal bleeding that isn’t related to the bloody show.
- Your baby is showing signs of distress before delivery (abnormal heart rate), or after birth (signs of a medical condition or difficulty breathing).
- Labor isn’t progressing.
- Traces of meconium are found in your amniotic fluid.
- You experience complications like placental abruption (when the placenta detaches from the lining of the uterus before delivery), or umbilical cord prolapse (when the umbilical cord drops into your vagina before your baby).
- The placenta isn’t delivered, or isn’t delivered completely.
For many women, the pros of a planned home birth might include:
- familiar, comfortable setting
- more control
- no pressure to use medications/interventions
- reduced price tag
- religious or cultural considerations
- convenience when previous pregnancies happened very quickly
With a home birth, you also have the freedom to choose your own labor positions and other elements of the birthing process. These include whether or not you eat or drink, take warm showers or baths, use candles or aromatherapy, etc.
With a home birth, your insurance policy may not cover any associated costs. Check with your midwife or doctor to find out more information.
In the event of an emergency, you’ll need to get to a hospital. Time could be of the essence. Being able to reach a hospital quickly is recommended.
If a home birth is something you’d like to pursue, be sure to choose a trained healthcare provider. Find a certified nurse-midwife, midwife, or a doctor formally associated with an accredited health care system. Birth is also messy, and you’ll need to be prepared with clean towels and plastic sheets. In the event of an emergency, you’ll need to get to a hospital. Time could be of the essence.
Create a birth plan with your doctor’s approval. You should understand that instead of having your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate continually monitored, these things will only be checked periodically.
It’s also important that you’re prepared for the possibility of a hospital transfer, and that you have plans for that possibility. Choose a pediatrician, and make arrangements to have your baby seen within the first days following birth.
With a home birth, your insurance policy may not cover any associated costs. Check with your insurance provider for more information. You’ll still need to work with a midwife and/or trained medical professional, and the cost can vary widely, depending on where you live.
Giving birth at home will require a little preparation. A private, peaceful space is important, and if you have older children, you’ll have to decide if you want them home or not. A birth kit is also useful. You can discuss this with your midwife or doctor to make sure you’ll have everything you need. Basic supplies include:
- absorbent pads with a waterproof bottom
- a peri bottle
- pads for postpartum use
- bulb syringe
- an antiseptic/antimicrobial soap
- Povidone, an iodine prep solution
- cord clamps
- sterile gloves
- a variety of gauze pads
- alcohol prep pads
Additional items may include:
- a basin for the placenta
- a waterproof mattress cover
- washcloths and towels
- fresh sheets
- clean receiving blankets
- trash bags
One of the advantages of a home birth is the freedom to labor as you please, so you should also consider labor aids such as a birthing pool, a birth ball, and music.
If you’re considering giving birth at home, start by learning more about the ins and outs of this experience. You can read home birth stories online and look for local organizations that can provide more information. You should also speak to your doctor or midwife about the unique circumstances of your pregnancy. Once you’ve got the all-clear to proceed, plan and prepare to make sure you have everything you’ll need to deliver your baby safely at home.