Many in the medical profession feel that women selfishly choose home birth by putting their own experience above the safety of the baby. This simply is not true – everyone wants a healthy mother and a healthy baby above all else. But couples who have their baby at home with a midwife know that statistics bear out the safety of home birth for low-risk mothers; they also recognize that there are many advantages for the baby as well as the mother and the entire family.
Advantages for the Baby
- Vaginal birth is much more likely at home (Cesarean rates range from 4-10% in most homebirth practices.) With vaginal birth, babies experience less breathing difficulties.
- There is less likelihood of infection when the baby is at home with the mother than in the hospital newborn nursery.
- The baby’s experience at birth can be recognized and made as gentle as possible. Routine procedures such as deep suctioning, scrubbing the baby, separation from the mother, etc.are avoided.
- The baby is not separated from the mother. The mother-infant bond is never sacrificed for institutional procedures.
- Breastfeeding is easier to establish when the baby can nurse on demand and not be given bottles.
Advantages for the Mother
- She is not subjected to routine procedures such as electronic monitoring, IV’s, shave, prep, enema, or stirrups.
- She can eat and drink and walk freely to assist her body to work with nature.
- She will have continuity of care with the same attendants, increasing safety.
- She is more likely to be treated as an individual, rather than being sacrificed to protocols or statistical averages.
- She is much less likely to need pain killing drugs, forceps or a caesarean section when she has attendants who believe that birth is a normal physiological function.
- She is comfortable in her own surroundings, relaxed and able to labor and deliver in the position she chooses.
- She has less chance of infection and episiotomy.
- Postpartum depression is less likely when there is no separation of mother and baby and the midwife relationship/support continues well after the birth.
- Partners are in their own home, not “allowed” to be present, but participating as fully as they choose.
- Other children can be present as appropriate.
- The birth is an integral part of family life, helping with postpartum adjustment.
- Requires a higher level of effort and responsibility.
- Often not supported by society of doctors.
- Access to some emergency equipment can be delayed and require transport.
Minimizing the Risks
Birth at home, like birth in the hospital, is not risk-free. You can minimize the risks by:
- Having good nutrition and adequate weight gain, can help in avoiding high blood pressure and other complications.
- Finding a midwife who is skilled, confident and experienced in birth at home, will assure good prenatal care.
- Informing yourselves through reading, classes, videos and other resources.
- Making sure that if you have a situation which makes you “statistically at risk” that you and your partner are well-informed and have taken adequate steps to minimize the chance of your becoming a statistic. For example, some physicians used to say that over 35 was “high-risk,” but studies show no greater incidence of complications with today’s well-nourished older mothers (you’re at high-risk of having a cesarean if you birth in the hospital, perhaps…)
- Having adequate support during labor and postpartum.
- Having an emergency back-up plan and numbers posted by the phone.
From “Homebirth as the Standard of Care” By Rahima Baldwin Dancy Article copyright © 2001 by Informed Homebirth, IHIBP@sbcglobal.net. Used with permission.