Q: I think I may want to give birth at home. Is there anything I should know?
A: Long before there were obstetricians, women gave birth with only the help of other women. Childbirth is, after all, a natural process that most often goes smoothly. However, it's when things don't go as expected and complications arise that doctors can be helpful, and in some cases, life-saving.
There are many advantages to having a home birth, like laboring in familiar, comfortable surroundings, having more control over your birth experience, and the ability to have as many family members there as you wish. Studies have also shown that women who give birth at home experience fewer medical interventions like episiotomies and c-sections compared to other low-risk women who give birth in hospitals. But home birth is not for everyone, and there are several factors that make birthing in a hospital a safer choice for certain women. These include:
• Medical conditions like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or any other diseases• Being pregnant with multiples• Having had a previous c-section or uterine surgery of any kind• Pregnancy complications such as preterm labor or a baby in a breech position• A baby with any anticipated medical conditions
If you want to have a home birth, you should enlist the help of a certified nurse-midwife to assist and support you throughout your pregnancy. At your initial meeting the midwife will take your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order the usual lab tests to determine if you're a good candidate for a home birth. If you are, you'll maintain a schedule of regular checkups with her throughout your pregnancy and she'll also be there during your labor and delivery.
It's important that everyone planning to be at the birth (you, your midwife, your partner, and any other family members) has a detailed transfer plan in place to get you to the hospital in case an emergency should arise. During a home birth it's vital to be flexible with your birth plan in case it becomes clear that the best thing for you and your baby is to go to the hospital. You should also remember that during a home birth you won't have access to pain relief like drugs or epidurals. This is especially important to think about for first-time moms-to-be, since you have no way of knowing what labor will actually feel like for you.