Post by contributor, Kathleen, of Becoming Peculiar
Two hours after I confirmed that I was pregnant, I called the midwives.
Midwives are in pretty high demand here in Ontario, often booking up quickly; and I wanted to be absolutely sure I was able to get one.
The friendly receptionist remembered me from my first pregnancy back in 2011. She went over my expected due date and asked me whether anything had changed in my medical history. Then she asked: “And will you be planning for another home birth?”
I didn’t hesitate with my answer: YES!
My first experience with a home birth was absolutely wonderful; and as long as this pregnancy (and any other future ones) remains low-risk, I hope to always give birth at home.
Here’s why I love home birth:
Hospitals are for the sick and injured.
A labouring woman is neither. I don’t understand why I would go to the hospital, then, unless complications arose (in which case I would be happy to be transferred).
Recently, I had a nephew born prematurely, and he had to stay in the NICU for two weeks. The hospital wasn’t allowing visitors due to an influenza outbreak within the facility, so we couldn’t see him until he was released.
Let me repeat that: I couldn’t see my brand-new nephew because he was locked in a flu-infested hospital. This is not an uncommon scenario, especially in the winter (when I will hopefully be giving birth).
Why would I choose to have my baby in that environment, again?
For low-risk pregnancies, planned midwife-attended home births are just as safe – or can be even safer – than hospital births.
For women who have no history of birth complications or medical conditions (e.g. placenta previa, preeclampsia, etc.) that place them at higher-than-normal risk during childbirth, there is no difference in the safety or results when attended by a professionally-trained midwife in the home compared to a hospital birth. In fact, planned home births are associated with reduced rates of obstetric interventions (like episiotomy, caesarean, etc) as well reduced rates of “adverse perinatal outcomes” (things like severe perineal tearing, postpartum hemorrhaging, etc).
Babies born at home are also less likely to require resuscitation at birth or to experience meconium aspiration.
Did you hear that? Planned home births are actually associated with slightly better outcomes for mom and baby than hospital births!
So since safety isn’t a concern with home birth, there are lots of other reasons I prefer to birth at home if at all possible:
No stressful transfer.
My first labour and birth went quickly. I woke up in the middle of the night to pretty intense contractions, and five hours later I was nursing my new baby. (That was with my midwife instructing me not to push for quite a while, even though I was fully dilated, just because the backup midwife hadn’t arrived yet.)
I think it really helped that my labour wasn’t interrupted by a stressful car ride and admittance to a hospital. Labour is known to often stall upon arrival at the hospital. The sudden change in scenery to an unfamiliar place can really throw off a laboring woman.
By contrast, I was able to focus all my energy on the hard work of birthing, right from the start, without interruption.
And since my first labour went so quickly, I have a real fear that I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time next time. What if my next labour takes half as long, which is quite common? I would not want to end up giving birth in the hospital parking lot! I’d rather just stay home and do my thing without any hoopla.
(Read more about the benefits of an undisturbed birth.)
(Me and my daughter, a few hours after birth.)
Giving birth is an intensely intimate experience, am I right? It’s just not something I want to share with strangers unless necessary.
At home, I don’t have to listen to other women screaming through contractions (I hear that some are quite terrifying!). And at the same time, I can feel free to make as much of my own noise as I want. I can tear off my clothes, get in and out of the tub, or do whatever makes me comfortable without worrying about neighbours or nurses.
And once the birth is over and the midwives have made sure we’re both doing well, everyone goes home and I can just spend some time in my own bed, bonding with my family, without interruptions.
A comfortable environment.
A woman’s brain and emotions play a huge role in how her birth progresses. Fear, anxiety, and discomfort can slow down labour. And a sterile, unfamiliar environment, bright lights, strangers prodding at your nethers, and all kinds of medical equipment isn’t exactly a recipe for calm and comfort.
At home, I am in a familiar place and can control my surroundings (the lighting, music, bedding, etc). I can wear my own clothes and eat my own food. I won’t be ogled or poked by strangers whose shifts might change mid-labour.
Once it’s all done I can take a shower in my own bathroom and put on whatever clothes I want from my own closet. No lumpy hospital beds, bleached-out gowns, weird food, beeping medical equipment, or plastic bins for baby to sleep in.
Less risk of unnecessary intervention and pressure to medicate.
I understand that the absence of pain medication might be considered a negative for many women; but for me, it’s an advantage. With my first birth, I wanted to avoid unnecessary intervention as much as possible; and not having them available to me made that much easier.
Because I’d planned far in advance to give birth at home, I’d had plenty of time to prepare my mind for an unmedicated birth. I knew from the get-go that I would need to draw from personal resources to get through it because there would be no other ones to draw from. As a consequence, there was never a moment in my labour when I second-guessed myself — I knew I had to do this on my own.
In a hospital setting, where I would have known drugs were available, I might have wondered whether I should accept them. Without that option, though, I wasn’t distracted by their possibility, and could focus on the hard work of giving birth.
I think we need to applaud women for whatever choice they make whether it be home or hospital, vaginal or c- section, medicated or not. I have 6 children and every birth has been different and beautiful however my last baby came by emergency c-section and vacuuming 7 times and still could not get her out. Finally with the help of two doctors and a nurse she came out and was in horrible shape. I have beat myself up over this because it wasn’t the perfect birth, it wasn’t how it was planned and on and on and I think that is because like some of these comments on here women are so quick to judge on how and where you should have a baby. Do what you think is right, let’s get healthy happy babies here and lift one another up in their own decisions.
Please pray hard before attempting a home birth. My sisters baby died because she labored too long at home st year. My sister hemorrhaged and almost died (not exaggerating). It was an absolutely terrible experience. She was even told that her baby would have made it had she went to the hospital or a birthing center sooner.
Not to be intensive, and I’m truly sorry for your loss…but the baby didn’t die because she ‘labored too long at home’. There had to have been other complications. The were other complications that a midwife didn’t pick up on, or were pretty sudden and ‘too late’ to do anything about. And while the baby MIGHT have survived had she gone to a hospital that is NOT a guarantee. But of course a doctor will most likely not tell you that.
What about all the babies who die in the hospital due to infections in the hospital, mistakes by doctors/nurses/staff, and other complications? Those records are much higher. I have several friends who have lost their babies IN the hospital due to mistakes by DOCTORS, and by staff.
I feel everyone is entitled to give birth where they choose. However even with a low risk pregnancy, in shape mama, no complications at any point things can go wrong. I delivered my baby in the hospital. Everyone believed everything would be perfect, but my baby’s lung collapsed while taking his first breath. It collapsed because of an infection of which no one knew it was there nor was there any reason to believe anything might be wrong. All ultrasounds were perfect. I was at 40 weeks and 3 days. Went into labor naturally. Because of immediate hospital care my baby never had low oxygen in his body and therefor after his lung healed and the infection was gone there is no long term worry I need to do. Anything can happen to anyone at anytime. Think about that as you are making your decision. I am healthy, never even got a runny nose during pregnancy, only gained what I was supposed to, am only 29 years old, and everything seemed perfect going into labor.
I just read a study yesterday that showed the majority of infections of mother or baby happened in the hospital, and virtually no infections occurred at homebirths. This suggest that the infections are actually caused by by the hospital environment itself. Also, the midwives carry oxygen so the baby would never have had to have low oxygen at the homebirth either. he would have access to the same thing they used in the hospital while he was being transferred to the hospital for evaluation.
Most people don’t realize the cause of their complications come from the hospital itself.
At my home birth in Calgary, Alberta our midwives arrived with a whole hospital set up. My master bedroom had so many contraptions, including oxygen, so that everyone was prepared for the worst case scenario. When my little ones heart rate dropped during the pushing phase the paramedics were called. I was never scared, but new that if I didn’t get the little guy out quickly we’d be making one very uncomfortable trip in an ambulance. I was able to push him out unassisted and the paramedics were not needed. When debriefing my birth, my midwife said that she was 90% sure we wouldn’t be needing the assistance of the paramedics, but because of that 10% she made the call and they were there just in case. I guess my point is that midwives are highly trained and do not take any risks in birth. They come prepared and they call for back up at the slightest indication that it may be needed. My only hope is that I’ll be able to experience a home birth again someday with another child!
My first was a planned homebirth which became a transfer to the local hospital, and 7 or so hours after transfer, became a c-section. 56 hours of labor, no pain meds, I was techacardic as was my baby, baby born with apgar of 2 and recessitated at birth.
My second was a planned homebirth, and successful!, VBAC . 44 Hours of labor because she was persistently ROT; 2 hours before birth she finally turned to LOA (ideal position for vaginal birth), 2 hours later (with just over 20 minutes of pushing) she was born into the water . Apgars 9 and 10 at birth. Loved it! Will do it again for any other kiddos I have as long as I remain low risk.
My husband is an RN who works in an ER. People were shocked he would be so supportive of homebirth. But he read all the research and being in the medical field, he understood that people have a very false sense of just how “safe” a hospital is. And our midwives have very good relationships with the hospital they have privileges at, and they’ve seen a lot of ER nurses from that hospital become their clients are requesting homebirths for the same reason – they’ve seen it all, read the research here in Ontario about our homebirth stats, and choose this option for themselves. Homebirth is a great option. I always believe in mama’s instincts about these things, though, and I’ll acknowledge that it’s not for everyone. Every mama needs to listen to her own mommy gut about the best location to her baby
I had my first baby at home eight weeks ago. I had a very fast, happily uncomplicated labour, and very quick delivery (the second midwife didn’t actually arrive before the baby!). I honestly believe one of the reasons my labour was so quick and peaceful was because of being at home. Besides feeling comfortable from being in my own environment, of course, I think being able to do what I wanted- standing, leaning forwards, walking around, going up and down the stairs to use the bathroom (about a billion times) really helped my labour to progress. And then the magic of the next morning, my partner and I waking up in bed next to our beautiful tiny daughter and having our own space to celebrate her arrival, is something I will never ever forget.
So many people when I say I had a home birth (or when I was planning one) said “You’re brave!” but to me it really was a no brainer (with the caveat of course, that everything stayed straightforward and uncomplicated.)
All 3 of my babies were planned to be home births, but, with my first, a car accident started labor at 35 weeks, so she was born in the hospital and spent 6 days in the NICU. Both her brothers were born at home, though, and I would not do the hospital again unless unavoidable. Home is SO much less stressful!
I had a homebirth with my second baby and LOVED all the things you said. Homebirth is AMAZING and I applaud you for speaking out about it 🙂
I planned both of my births for home, and they both ended up as hospital births. My first was an emergency c-section and my second was transferred for failure to progress after 48 hours… But I got my VBAC, thanks to the fabulous team at the hospital and my sweet home birth midwife who was with me the whole time! And yes, I will try for a home birth again.
Congrats on your VBAC! I totally get why you would want to try for a homebirth in the future. I had an HBAC after one prior c/s; a good friend of mine had an HBAC after two prior C/s 🙂 Just to encourage you that it can be done and I hope you get your dream
My sister died during home birth of her third baby a few years ago. If she had been in a hospital she would still be with her beautiful children and husband.
I’m so sorry to hear of your sisters death.
However, there is no guarantee that your sister would still be living if she had had a hospital birth. The unfortunate reality is that women DO die in hospital births in North America all the time. And many of these women who die were not defined as ‘high risk” – they were medically deemed “low risk,” yet they died in childbirth.
Women who are deciding on homebirth versus hospital birth should first look at the research done in their area/country to establish if it is safe there. Then, they should make their own choice based on what feels right to them. Because the reality is that women can die either at home or in the hospital….
But please be aware – in the case of Ontario, this would not be comparing apples to apples, because our research here, which compares low risk women homebirthing and low risk women birthing in hospital shows, very very clearly, that women are LESS likely to die in a homebirth than a hospital birth. (Not a typo)
That is why it is entirely fair to point out that truly, a woman could die in any birth location she chooses.
But the research shows that, in Ontario, she is far more likely to be alive at the end of her birth if she births at home rather than the hospital. Ironic. But true.
This is why I always encourage women to read the research and make their own choice. Anecdote is not research. The research strives to compare apples to apples and give us a verdict. Yes, some other countries don’t have the fantastic homebirth safety rate that we have here in Ontario and other regions in Canada. But no matter location, people should find out the safety of such things for their area.
I am so sorry Amanda. My sister almost died during a home birth last year. Her baby did die. I will NEVER attempt a home birth despite all of the natural childbirth/Bradley classes I have taken.
Gosh, you look radiant in that photo! I would love to have a homebirth one day. It’s not supported here in Luxembourg – no doctors and only one midwife (a rumour I heard – I don’t know who she is!) will attend you. And it gets complicated with the state health insurance. So… for number one we’re having a hospital birth. But we’re trying as much as possible to make it a home-like experience: a Dr that is supportive of our desire for a natural birth and is super hands-off; preparation with hypnobirthing; Planning to stay home as long as possible… and hospitals are pretty good here all considering – the maternity units are entirely seperate from the rest of the hospital, and rooming in, breastfeeding straight away, etc are all standard practices. So, fingers crossed, we’ll have the birth we hope for. And then let’s see for number two… 😉
I had a completely natural, drug-free, low-risk pregnancy and delivery in our local, small town hospital until trying to deliver the afterbirth. I ended up going tachycardic from blood loss and had to have an emergency surgery and 4 blood transfusions. So despite being low risk etc etc I’m so glad I was in the hospital as no one could have predicted this would happen.
I’m planning to give birth with a midwife at a hospital. I feel like it the best of both worlds. Emotionally and mentally, I think I will actually feel more comfortable at a hospital knowing that more involved medical care is right there in the unlikely event that it is needed. Also, I will still get the benefits of a midwife who has experience with unmedicated births and typically intervenes a lot less than a traditional ob, and at least some of the flexibility that I would have at home (as far as moving around in labor, getting in the shower or tub, birthing in whatever position, etc). Also, after I watched the “Business of Being Born,” I realized I had absolutely no desire to give birth at home! I know that wasn’t the point of the movie, but actually seeing those births made me realize I’d much prefer not to be at home. It just doesn’t appeal to me.
I had a midwife for my second birth, and seriously considered delivering at home. I spent months gearing myself up for natural labour, and in the beginning was extremely excited about it. However, about half-way through the pregnancy I started experiencing a lot of fears – things that I considered unreasonable and unrealistic. I felt very uneasy about delivering, and had a strange concern about my baby’s head.
When I found out that my baby was breech, I did a lot of research on breech births and delivering naturally. There is a lot of good research about healthy breech deliveries with midwives, and our new hospital specialized in it, so I considered having a breech delivery in the hospital attended by the midwife. But still, my fears persisted.
When I finally went into labour during a manual turning of the baby, I really wanted to deliver naturally, although we still had chosen to go to the hospital with the midwife and I hadn’t shaken the fears. After several hours of pushing, we finally acknowledged that the baby would not be descending on her own. Finally, we opted for a c-section.
This was an extremely traumatic decision for me, as I had planned and prepared for a natural delivery, but when I had realized that my midwife was also becoming nervous and was quick to agree that I should have a c-section, we chose to go ahead. My baby was born with a larger head than usual, and the sutures seemed to be fused so she could not descend. She was in the hospital in NICU for a week, undergoing MRIs, ultrasounds and x-rays.
Later on, my midwife said she believed we would have had to have a c-section with a pelvic break to deliver the baby had I opted to deliver naturally. I agree, now.
I still believe in home births (thanks to Beth and other research!), but I am also a very strong believer in a mama’s instincts. I believe I instinctively knew we would have trouble, and I do not believe that my fears caused it. If a mama’s instincts lead her to peacefully decide on a home birth, go for it. But if her instincts tell her otherwise, then I do think she needs to make the decision that gives her the most peace.
PS. I was tremendoulsly grateful for my midwives’ care during and post-pregnancy and also during labour. And, my baby is alright now, although she’s wearing a pediatric orthodic helmet to help adjust her headshape.
I wanted to have my third at home, but here in TN our insurance would not cover it and we couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket. I birthed all three of our children naturally in the hospital, with my wonderful doula with us each time!
I birthed all my babies at home. 🙂
My first was a planned home water birth…second had prenatal complications that made us have to plan for a hospital birth. Much preferred home birth but very thankful to be a Canadian and have my high intervention pregnancy/hospital birth covered by MSP! I was still seen by midwife for my care.