If you bring up the subject of home birth to most people, they’ll probably think you’re insane. After all, 99 percent of births take place in the hospital, under the supervision of doctors, and everyone knows giving birth at home is dangerous. However, home birth isn’t the risky proposition that most people think it is. In fact, until the beginning of the 20th century, when the medical institution sought to push midwives out of their traditional role, most births occurred at home.
There are some big myths about home birth that you might encounter. One of them is that statistics support the idea that hospitals are safer places to give birth than the home. In fact, when studies have been done to compare births performed in hospitals with those which occur away from such a facility, home births actually have fewer deaths, infections, and injuries.
The second big myth is that you’ll get better attention in a hospital, and that your attendants will be better trained. Unfortunately, staff at hospitals are often over scheduled. It’s not common for the obstetrician to stay by a new mother’s bedside the way a midwife would, and emotional relationships with your physician are even rarer. Midwives, by contrast, offer trained and personal care to women in labor, in environments the mothers are comfortable in and familiar with. A midwife will actually provide more attentive care than you can get in a hospital.
Another myth is that having high end technology available means you’ll have an easier birth. Using fetal monitors and IV fluids as a matter of course often makes us uncomfortable and miserable at a time when we should be feeling joy. These also mean that all women in labor have to be confined to bed, although women who are allowed to move around have less back pain and more effective contractions. Some hospitals even still require women to give birth on their backs, with their feet in stirrups above their heads. This position actually makes births take longer and means forceps are more likely to be introduced. In contrast, when women are allowed to be comfortable during the bearing down part of labor, forceps are almost never needed.
Fear of germs is rampant in our society, which leads us to the fourth big myth about home birth: your home is a dangerous place for a baby. Many people think that hospitals are more sanitary, and prevent infants from becoming sick. However, many antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria have developed and are harbored in hospitals. This means that despite strict procedures to control infections, resistant strains of staph bacteria and other microbes are a danger. Since each family is used to the germs in their own home, there’s a high chance that we’ve already passed on immunity to our babies, should they encounter bacteria. Fewer strangers are around, so foreign bacterial infections are comparatively rare. Of course, precautions, such as sterile instruments, hand washing, and use of gloves should always be observed in a home birth.
The last big myth is that it’s hard to find someone qualified to help you have your baby at home. In actuality, more and more midwives are becoming certified every year. You should always plan ahead, selecting your midwife carefully and making sure that you’re comfortable with her. Interview several different candidates, and choose the one that you feel the best about.
Home birth isn’t for every mother. However, if you’re worried about the impersonal treatment in hospitals, and would like to be in a safe, familiar environment when you give birth, this method is worth considering. Advantages include the ability to choose your attendants, comfort, the ability to choose the positions you’ll take during labor, and no chance of being separated from your baby after he or she is born. Freedom, as well as lower cost, are big bonuses of having your baby at home. However, you should keep in mind that you’ll need to be dedicated to having your baby naturally. Epidurals and other medications aren’t available in home births. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re able to quickly reach a hospital with emergency facilities in case something does go wrong.
Thousands of women in the United States give birth at home every year, joining the many more in other countries and the mothers who have gone on before us. Home birth, attended by a trained professional, is a safer, gentler way to have our children than a long hospital stay, where doctors are likely to treat us like objects. The key to a successful home birth, as with every endeavor, is planning and comfort. When we have our children in comfortable, organized surroundings, the odds of a gentle birth and a happy, healthy child are excellent. While doctors debate whether home birth should be supported, thousands of us are having babies at home successfully. When the time comes to deliver your baby, remember the option of home birth.