Women choose to birth at home for a variety of reasons. Often it is where women 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, and is the environment that they wish to bring their baby into. Women who choose home birth are reclaiming the How, Where and When of birth.
The great thing is that home birth is proving to be a safe option to choose in developed countries around the world. Approximately 30% of women choose to birth their babies in the comfort of their home in the Netherlands. It 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 home birth is dependent on how integrated midwifery is into the health care system. The evidence demonstrates that low risk mothers who choose trained professionals–midwives integrated into the mainstream health care system, with access to emergency backup–can birth at home safely, and in fact there may even be advantages that hadn't been considered before now!
Home birth in Canada, depending on the province, has been protected as an option within the model of midwifery care–allowing women to exercise their right to choose their birth location. However, most families remain unaware of home birth as a safe and viable option--and until they become fully informed, they are not able to really make a choice.
Making choices based on the safety for mother and baby is always the most important consideration when choosing your birth site. So making sure that you not only feel comfortable and supported, you also want to make sure you meet the medical criteria to be at home. That criteria includes: well grown term baby, normal amniotic fluid level, normal blood pressure, knowing that the placenta is located far from internal opening of the cervix, no history of postpartum hemorrhage (if this is not your first baby), normal iron and platelet levels, and no other significant medical history that could complicate the labour.
Home Birth Kit, What to include?
Planning a home birth is very exciting! To help you prepare, your midwife will normally provide you with a list of supplies for the birth that is best to have gathered by the time you are 36 weeks pregnant. Some hospitals are able to provide birth supplies for women birthing at home, so before buying a kit you should always check what is available in your community. Matraea has developed the New Beginnings Home Birth Kit (designed by midwives), full of all the supplies that you and your midwife will need!
What we know about home births
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. Many 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 - remembering that at any point during the labour, things can change - even your mind.