Why Home Births Are on the Rise
There are plenty of reasons more moms are choosing to birth outside of the hospital, specifically at home. Home birth is on the rise, and it's not all about the idea of having a purely magical birth experience (though sometimes it is). Families choose out-of-hospital birth for a variety of reasons, ranging from their comfort level with hospitals, to more choices during delivery, to hard evidence that (strongly) suggests a host of benefits to birthing at home. While some assume it’s still a radical choice, home birth has many valuable perks, and studies show it to be overwhelmingly safe for low-risk women.
While it’s certainly not for everyone, women should birth where they feel the safest and most comfortable, and for some women, that is simply in the comfort of their own home. Rather than railing against women’s choices, we should research the benefits of home birth and allow women to make their own educated decisions about where to deliver.
Here are 14 reasons women choose to birth at home.
Low Rates of Unnecessary Intervention
While some are quick to assume that home birth brings about increased risk to mom and baby, the reality is that many risks we associate with birth are risks that are created by a hospital atmosphere. During a hospital birth, interventions frequently occur for reasons that are not evidence-based, such as a long labor, which can be quite normal.
But at home, the onslaught of interventions (which leads to more and more interventions) doesn’t occur because the time and space to labor naturally is typically given. Women who desire less intervention surrounding the birth of their baby might opt to give birth at home because the statistics show that there is typically far less intervention and more trust in the birthing process as a whole.
More Freedom During Delivery
There has been a lot of research about the benefits of women moving during delivery. But in hospitals, it is still pretty standard procedure for women to get immediately into bed. Some hospitals even require women to be in a bed, hooked up to fetal monitor. If a mother is receiving an epidural, she will most likely have to remain in bed as well.
But oftentimes, staying in bed has negative impacts on a delivery. A mother’s pelvis can open more easily when she is upright or squatting then when reclined. Likewise, gravity can’t do it’s magic when a mother is laying flat on her back. And some women simply want to be able to move freely because it feels far more comfortable to walk, rock and sway when managing the pain of her contractions. Several hospitals, however, still don’t allow women to move freely during delivery.
A More Calm Birthing Experience
It can be hard for even the calmest mother-to-be to feel fully relaxed in a hospital environment. With machines and monitors that beep, hospital staff coming in and out of the room, harsh lighting and the ever-growing feeling that your baby’s entrance is on a ticking time-clock, letting go can feel impossible. But stress can have profound impacts on a mother’s ability to let her body relax and open.
At home, a mother has more control over her environment, from the sounds and smells and even the people who surround her. Therefore, she may be able to relax more fully and let her body do its work.
A Care Provider Who Practices Outside the Hospital
While obstetricians deliver most of the babies born in the U.S., they are not the only people who deliver babies. Midwives perform deliveries both in and outside of hospitals, too. But home birth midwives (most commonly certified professional midwives or CPMs) often have a different set of procedures than those who work in a hospital.
If a mother is being attended to by a home birth midwife, she will likely have a very different experience than if attended to in a hospital. From less intervention, to a care provider with a less medicalized approach, to more gentle treatment overall, home birth midwives vary greatly from both OB/GYNs and midwives who deliver strictly in the hospital.
Not Wanting to Leave Home During Labor
Some mothers choose to birth at home simply because they don’t want to relocate during delivery. Ask most mothers, at least those who have endured a bumpy car ride to the hospital late in their labor, and it can be excruciating.
Simply staying put and having your care provider come to you is kind of the five-star treatment.
More Choices About What Happens to Baby
In hospitals, there is often a clear-cut procedure for what happens post-delivery. While moms can ask for things like immediate skin-to-skin with their baby, delayed umbilical cord clamping and the chance to bring their baby immediately to their breast, sometimes those wishes aren’t respected or even go against hospital policy that calls for observation, testing and shots right after birth.
Mothers who want more choices about what happens right after baby is born might opt for home birth, so they can enjoy those snuggly uninterrupted moments with their newborn right away, which some research says, has positive impacts for both mom and baby.
A Lack of In-Hospital Options
While those of us who live in areas with quality hospitals and good maternity wards can find if difficult to imagine not having those options, not every mother is so lucky. Some mothers are forced to drive hundreds of miles to get to a hospital where they can deliver their baby. A mother might choose to birth at home out of pure necessity — because there is no hospital that has a maternity ward near her. For some families who choose home birth, it might not be because it’s their first choice or where they feel most comfortable, but when it’s between that and risking long drives while in labor to get to their care provider, finding a home birth midwife and planning to deliver at home is preferable.
Holly Scudero, who lived in Waukegan, Ill., at the time of her delivery, says, “The original reason I sought an out-of-hospital birth was because I simply didn’t like any of my hospital options. They all have high cesarea rates, high epidural rates, and they mandated other interventions I did not want (namely, continuous electronic fetal monitoring and an IV). I really would have loved a birth center, but the closest was more than an hour away.”
Past Negative Experience Birthing in the Hospital
Many women make the choice to birth at home after a previous hospital birth. For some, the experience didn’t live up to their expectations.
If a birth had a lot of unnecessary intervention, a mother wasn’t treated respectfully or even experienced PTSD (a phenomenon known as birth trauma, which is usually related to negative experiences with forceful or manipulated hospital birth), she may make different choices about subsequent deliveries as a result, seeking lower intervention options.
Better Pain Management
While it might be assumed that home birth is far more painful than hospital birth, with no option for an epidural, some mothers find they are able to better manage their pain in the comfort of their own home. Things like walking, swaying, moving room to room, getting in and out of bed, or even getting in a shower or bath can easily be accommodated when a mother is in her own environment.
While some hospitals do allow water birth, the freedom of movement and choice is certainly more present in a family’s own home, and a mother may be more comfortable using all the options at her disposal.
It’s Cost Effective
Parents are often shocked when, even after their insurance kicks in, a massive hospital bill arrives a few weeks after coming home with their new baby. In fact, the U.S. has some of the highest birthing costs around. One way to alleviate some of the costs associated with birth is to give birth at home.
Most licensed home birth midwives take insurance, and the cost is substantially lower than the cost of hospital birth. In part, that’s because the level of intervention is typically much lower than in a hospital, but you also don’t have to pay for room and board and every little procedure or medication, which you may or may not have even asked for in the first place.
Postpartum Check-ups Come to You
After giving birth at home, the only thing you really need to do is stay in bed and get to know your new baby. Postpartum is demanding enough without doctors and nurses slamming in and out of the hospital room at all hours of the night or without trekking back and forth to the doctor to get that new baby check-up.
With a home birth, it’s standard for home birth midwives to visit for a follow-up 24- to 48-hours post-birth and again a few days later. Having the comforts of home while your care provider makes house calls is just what the exhausted, achy and sleep-deprived postpartum mother ordered.
There Is Opportunity for Lots of Support
During a home birth, the only person who decides how many people are in the room or how her delivery is supported is the birthing mother. The presence of her partner, a doula or other family members (even children) can all be welcomed additions. But when giving birth in the hospital, there are often rules and regulations about who can be in the room and how those people can help, support and conduct themselves.
Arlene Ruth Soto, a 24-year-old mom who lives in Denver, had two previous hospital births, but has planned a home birth with her third, so she can have whoever she wants by her side. “I’m looking forward to staying home and being able to keep my kids with me,” she says. “I’ll be able to have my mom and husband home to watch our girls and not worry about who is going to take care of them … and they won’t be away from us for two to three days. I want my girls to be able to be with me and see the baby when she’s born. And our family can come and visit us at home, so it’s much easier and less formal [than in a hospital].”
Less Likelihood of a Surgical Birth
There is one huge, glaring reason why many moms are turning to home birth: lower rates of surgical birth. With about one-third of mothers delivering babies surgically via cesarean birth, whether planned or unplanned, some mothers simply want to lower their chances of having a c-section. Moms who birth at home have extraordinarily low rates of surgical birth, which is not surprising because some studies show that the biggest predictor of c-section is not any specific maternal risk factor, but rather in what hospital she gives birth. Because c-section rates vary greatly depending on hospital procedures, the less-invasive approach tends to get rid of a lot of the risk.
Laura Richards, a mother of four from Framingham, Mass., says that after the cesarean births of her first three children, she was set on having a vaginal delivery with her last child. But she soon realized that birthing in the hospital was not her best option to do so. “I was told I would kill my child and would not be allowed to labor since I previously had c-sections. [The hospital staff] said horrible things to me.”
But when she began looking into home birth, she realized that the birth she wanted was completely possible. Even though she says the birth was complicated, she was able to avoid another surgical birth. “The home birth midwives were wonderful and had knowledge beyond what any hospital midwife did,” she says. “I avoided a c-section and I hope other women take charge of their care.”
A Feeling of Empowerment
While not all mothers give birth at home because they desire the empowering feeling of an unmedicated birth, it is certainly motivation for some. Home birthers often say the experience of bringing their baby into the world in the comfort of their home, reveling in the strength of their own body can be transformative. For some mothers, that feeling is reason enough to forgo the hospital.
Jillian Kirby, a mother of one in Burlington, Vt., says this was true of her home birth. “For the first time in my life, I felt like my body was fully able and functional. And it really changed my whole relationship with my body permanently to have experienced the sheer power of what it can do when I keep my mind and worries out of my way,” she says. “I don’t think I could ever have been as fully autonomous and in my body in a hospital setting.”