If you’re reading this, you may be considering having a home birth, but you need to weight up the pros and cons of home birth before taking the next step.
Here’s the news: I can’t make the decision for you.
What I can do, is make that decision a little easier by identifying the pros and cons of having your birth in the comfort of your own home.
Buckle in cause we might just be asking some soul-searching questions along the way…
Do you feel ready?
Before we dive into the list of pros and cons, I just wanted to touch upon this question a little bit.
Ultimately, the decision is on you, so you need to feel ready to be able to do it.
Your hubby or birthing partner obviously should have a place when you make your Birth Plan, though they should be adapting to your needs.
Good news is – if you’re actually considering a home birth, chances are you will probably go through with it.
Some signs that you feel ready could be:
- You’ve done your research and keep reading about it
- You’ve looked for midwives who offer this service
- You can’t imagine yourself birthing anywhere else
Still, even if you meet the above ‘criteria’ of feeling ready, you may still be feeling a little nervous – after all, there are very few women that have a home birth these days, though the numbers are rising.
Who can have a home birth?
To be able to qualify for a home birth, you have to meet criteria that indicates you have a low-risk pregnancy. Essentially what this means is that you don’t have signs of:
- Gestational Diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Low or high amniotic fluids
- Preterm labor
There may be other indications that you may not be able to have a home birth so please check with your medical practitioner.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and cannot decide whether or not you qualify for home birth, I only give advice from my point of view from a woman who’s given birth at home.
- You get to birth on your own terms
- You decide who is there
- Freedom of movement
- Larger space
- You can have a birthing pool
- Eat/drink as you like
- Make as much strange noises as you like without embarassment
- Privacy as a new family
Now let’s go through them in a little more detail..
Birth on your own terms
If you’re a lady who likes to be in charge of her life and consequently you think that your birth should be no different, this is for you.
Being told what to do while birthing was an absolute no-go for me. I don’t like to be bossed around in day-to-day life, so imagine me in labour!
Having a birth at home meant that I chose a midwife who would guide me rather than tell me what to do.
She gave me the flexibility to try what felt right for me and only gave me suggestions when she saw I was struggling.
So if you can’t stand the thought of doctors telling you to change position or get checked again – home birth may be something you want to consider.
You decide who is present
If the hustle and bustle of a hospital environment runs shivers down your spine – you’re not the only mom.
The sound of machines, woman laboring in the room next to you and just general footsteps marching up and down can be a major distraction for you whilst giving birth.
Women need a quiet and calm environment to birth – it helps to concentrate on your body and your baby.
I almost had a friend come over and be a supportive figure. She is such a calm and relaxed person I trust so much, I invited her to be there.
In the end, she couldn’t be there at the exact date and it worked out just perfectly anyway – but if I wanted her there, at home I had that option.
Most hospitals limit only one birthing partner per person. Make sure to write in your birth plan the details of who you want with you on the day of your labour.
Freedom of movement
This goes in line with the point I just made really. Depending on the hospital, you might not be able to change position and get comfy as you like.
Most hospitals prefer to have you on your back for the pushing part as it’s easier to monitor what’s going on.
The problem with this is that it’s totally anti-gravity and can put the natural process of labour on pause.
When you’re birthing at home, you can attach straps to a doorway, move around on a birth ball, dance around in your living room – whatever works for you.
It goes without saying that a whole house is bigger than a small room in a hospital.
What most women struggle with during birth is getting mentally blocked – changing location can really help to have a breather.
By having a larger space to birth in, you can regather, and begin again.
Take me, for example – I was labouring nicely in the kitchen in my pool. All of a sudden, I started to get cold and shivery so I was guided to the upstairs living room.
They wrapped me up in towels and I lay on my cushions to rest a little. Just the change from the water helped me progree enormously, to then go back into the pool ready to start pushing.
Seriously, if you haven’t considered getting a birthing pool, you might be missing out.
Water birth has many benefits that you can read about in this post. Relief is the main positive factor of labouring in water.
There is also the fact that the water needs to be at 38 degree heat, which just feels so luxurious on a tired, sore body.
Here a photo of me in my birthing pool:
If that photo doesn’t convince you on this one, I don’t know what will!
Eat/Drink as much as you like
My contractions began at approximately 1am in the morning. At 3am I decided it was an ingenous idea to eat a decent portion of veggie bean stew I’d made the night before.
If I hadn’t eaten that, I don’t know if I’d have had the strength to carry on through those hours.
Would I have been able to do that in a hospital? Probably not.
Most hospitals are pretty strict on a non-drinking rule. This is because….
My midwife, however, informed me of the importance of staying hydrated during labour – especially with the amount I was sweating.
Make strange noises
Okay, so I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a mental image of the sounds a woman makes during birth.
That image is not pretty! We’ve all seen it on TV, in films – a woman screeching in high pitched tones.
When you really have a chance to let yourself go though, that rarely happens. In fact, you should be aiming for deep vocal sounds and relaxing your jaw.
If you feel judged during labour, you can close up and make the process harder than it needs to be.
If you feel safe in your natural environment, you can make strange noises all you like, ain’t nobody gon’ hear you.
(Except the loving father of your baby, but you’ll laugh about it after!)
Privacy as a new family
One of the biggest pros I would say is the fact that after the birth, you don’t have people coming in and interrupting you as you settle in.
You can take the time to get to know each other and explore these new roles – especially if this is your first time.
Having this privacy allows you to create the bond with your baby and ease in to your new life as a family.
When you’re in a hospital, your husband or partner is sent home. Though he will come back to visit you, the experience just won’t be the same.
So ladies, we’ve covered the pros – let’s get down to the cons.
- You may not feel safe at home
- Need to be close to a hospital
- Can’t be monitored closely
- No access to pain medicine
- Going against the majority
- Not covered by insurance
This largely comes into play with the question if anyone can have a home birth.
To start out, to have a home birth you need to have a low risk pregnancy. Your doctor or midwife will check this at the beginning of your pregnancy and regularly throughout.
Just one example of this is when I was pregnant,
Need to be close to a hospital
Now this is a biggie.
Hopefully everything will go as planned on the day of your birth – but when things don’t go to plan it can certainly get tricky if you live more than a half hour away from the hospital.
So should complications arrive, you should have a Plan B in place, and a hospital bag ready should you need to be transferred.
If this is not a risk you want to take, you may need to reconsider if this is the right option for you.
It’s always useful to locate your nearest hospital anyway, do a practice run and make sure they have your files beforehand just in case.
Can’t be monitored closely
When you have a home birth, the only real monitoring that you will have is a doppler that your midwife will bring in her equipment bag.
That means no fetal tracking with a machine as you would find in a hospital setting.
As you have to be a low-risk pregnancy candidate to have a home birth anyway, in theory you shouldn’t need to be checked.
Should you need further checking, however, you would need a hospital transfer.
No access to pain medicine
If you’ve committed to a home birth, you’ve also committed to a drug-free chilbirth.
There are many ways to manage pain during labour, the number one being the mindset you put yourself in.
It is worth noting though, that if you haven’t prepared or informed yourself enough or you feel the pain to be overwhelming, you would not be able to have pain medicine.
Some midwives carry gas and air, which you may be able to ask for – but otherwise, you would need to be transferred.
Going against the majority
Home birth is not commonplace in modern society. In fact, under 1% of women give birth at home in the US.
If you’re getting serious about labouring at home, you need to make sure you have people on your team.
Listening to negative horror stories of births that went wrong will only discourage you from your choice.
As long as you stick with your guns, and politely tell negative storytellers to mind their own business, you’re good to go.
Not covered by insurance
I live in France, where home birth is not common practice either, with just….percent.
Unfortunately that means that midwives that practice home births are not covered by insurance.
This is because they are still considered as ‘medically unsafe’. What this basically means is that should there be a hospital transfer, the midwife is not insured.
As for the US, the cover of home births by health insurance depends from state to state.
It’s a good idea to research this in your area before you make your decision.