Homebirth is a safe and wonderful option for low-risk women. Even first time mothers can give birth at home. Even mothers who previously had a hard labor or interventions can give birth at home.
So, why home birth? For most healthy women homebirth is a very real, very good option. In fact, it's safer than hospital birth*. In some countries of the world, homebirth is still a “normal” thing and the midwifery model of care is the rule – not an exception.
A woman must be “low-risk” to have a homebirth. The best way to stay low-risk is to stay dedicated to your prenatal care (that means taking good care of yourself – you see your midwife or doctor only a small fraction of your pregnancy). Take good care of yourself and follow your instincts for caring for your baby.
You have control over your prenatal care with a provider. You'll probably see your midwife on a regular schedule – but it's up to you to take care of your body and your baby.
Your midwife may have you test your own urine and weight at each appointment. You might also fill in your own chart. This lets you know what's going on with your own body.
Even if you don't do this yourself your midwife is sure to fill you in on it. She'll spend plenty of time asking you questions about your self-care and your physical and emotional state.
Appointments are open to your entire family, even your children. You get to know your midwife well and establish a good relationship with her.
Your midwife probably has a large collection of books and videos to borrow from. You may also be able to attend “baby reunions” for past clients and their children, or gatherings of your midwife's current clients for companionship and to hear birth stories.
Just as mothers from all species seek out safe, quiet places to birth, and guard those places, human mothers also want security and safety. At home, this is almost a given.
You are in control of how your home is set up. You're in control of who is there. Don't let someone come to your homebirth that you don't want there. Worry about hurt feelings later. During pregnancy, focus on creating the birth atmosphere you want. It's your choice.
You can walk around as much as you want. You can stay inside or go outside. You can sit on the toilet or hug a tree! It's totally up to you.
There isn't anything stuck in you or your baby. Your midwife will monitor your baby's vitals intermittently with a Doppler or fetoscope. This has been proved to be just as safe as continuous fetal monitoring.
You can also set up a birthing tub or you can labor in your own bathtub or shower. If you want to give birth in the tub, you will probably want to look into hiring a labor pool or buying a large “kiddie pool.”
You can eat and drink as you would like to – and what you'd like to! You can wear whatever you like – or you can wear nothing if you like 😉 It's all up to you.
You can relax best in your own home. And your partner can give you all the support you need. Your birth coach can get in the tub or shower with you, walk with, or be in bed with you. Your partner may like it that he can “guard the nest” and make sure that you are safe as you labor.
Your midwife is focused on you and giving you support (if you've chosen to have a midwife – you may have other support persons or choose to birth alone). Your midwife or coach encourages you to move around and do what your body is telling you to keep labor moving. They remind you to drink and to pee, and to eat something if your strength seems to be waning.
Your midwife can suggest things to do if your labor seems slow or is stalling. She has the patience to let you work through peaks naturally. Your midwife should be hands-off when you want her to be, leaving you (and your husband/coach) to work with birth skills and instinct as you need to.
At home, you have the freedom and the support you need to dance, moan, rock, or even laugh through your labor. You don't need to worry about being quiet!
Your midwife should know when there's a complication. She'll know exactly what to do to help you and your baby. Many common issues can be handled right at home – for instance, your baby may simply need you to change positions. If your midwife advises transfer, it's probably time to go.
When you choose your midwife, you can and should ask her what equipment she'll bring to the birth. Different midwives have different philosophies on what they should carry and what impacts the safety of birth. Talk to your midwife and make sure you agree with her philosophy.
After your baby arrives he or she comes right to you (or you can just look your baby over for a minute – many moms do this instinctively before picking up baby). Even if your baby needs some help getting started, that work will be done right with you if possible. All newborn procedures are delayed until you and your baby get to know each other. When they're done, they're done right in front of you!
At home you never have to fight to keep things away from your baby. If you choose not to have eye treatment or interventions like Vitamin K, you don't have to argue to keep them away from your baby.
Your midwife gives plenty of time to get breastfeeding started and can help you get going right from the start. You can nurse your baby for as long as you want to.
Your homebirth midwife stays for a bit after your baby is born to make sure that you and he/she are doing well. She comes back every day for several days after the birth to check on how you're doing.
It's usually recommended that you take your baby to her pediatrician or your family doctor within 1-4 weeks of the birth (depending on how often your midwife does exams). Until then, your midwife or you can do full newborn exams on your baby.
You'll have a postpartum check around six weeks. You can also call your midwife with questions any time you need her, even after six weeks. Your midwife may offer family planning counseling and can tell you where to find natural forms of birth control should you choose them.
Get the skills and knowledge you need to really be in control during your birth – our MamaBaby Birthing online childbirth classes give you the resources you need to truly be prepared for childbirth and beyond. You need these skills even if you have a midwife.
*Click here to download a copy of “Exploding the Myth of Hospital Birth for Low Risk Women” by Judy Slome (opens in a new tab)
Photo by Lindsay Turner