Women choose to birth at home because it’s their place of safety: home is where they believe they will be the most comfortable, relaxed and supported; home is where they believe their bodies will have the best chance to work the way they are designed to; home is the environment that they wish to bring their newborn baby into. Women who choose homebirth are reclaiming the How, Where and When of birth.
The great thing for these women is that Home birth is proving to be a safe option for mothers to choose in developed countries around the world. Approximately 30% of women choose to birth their babies in the comfort of home in the Netherlands. Home birth is re-gaining popularity in other countries such as the UK, where more and more midwives, (the majority of obstetrical care providers in that country) are responding to the increasing evidence about the safety of home birth by encouraging women to stay at home to birth, supported by their guidance and care.
In North America, a woman’s ability to safely choose this option is dependent on how integrated midwifery is into their own health care system. Where this is the case, this is great! The evidence demonstrates that low risk mothers who choose trained professionals–integrated into the health care system, with access to emergency backup–can birth at home safely, and in fact there may even be advantages not considered before now!
In Canada, depending on the province, home birth has been protected as an option for birth within the model of midwifery care–allowing women to exercise their right to choose their birth location. Yet some families remain unaware of home birth as a safe and viable option for themselves. And until they become fully informed, how can they really make a choice?
Making choices based on the safety of mother and baby is always the most important consideration when choosing your birth site. It’s what unifies all families and all obstetrical care providers – including family doctors, obstetricians and midwives.
What we know
Home birth reduces the risk of infections, and lowers the chances of interventions such as artificially ruptured membranes, oxytocin augmentation, routine electronic fetal monitoring as well as medication and c-sections. Often women who choose hospital births arrive at the hospital too early, later regretting it. False starts and the early signs of labour have them rushing to hospital only to be sent home again. Women want (and need!) to know what is going on but the back and forth to hospital can interrupt the natural birth process, sometimes backfiring by delaying or stopping labour, and resulting in interventions that “encourage progress.”
Generally speaking: the more comfortable the mother, the easier the birth. Home provides a more comfortable and relaxing environment for many mothers. Free to move and walk around, she can drink and eat whenever she wants – all of which has been demonstrated to assist women to progress in labour, naturally. By contrast, hospitals–by their very nature–are a confined and alien environment filled with unknown people, equipment, strange smells and loud noises.
Home birth is not for everyone. For the low-risk, healthy mama, where you feel most comfortable is where you need to be: give birth where you feel supported and safe. For some women that is the hospital, and for others it is at home. Ask your midwife to give you all the information on your options so that you can choose what is right for you.