Considering a Home Birth? Here’s What you Need to Know

Creating a birthing plan is one of the best ways to make sure that your delivery day goes as smooth as possible. Many women build their birth plan around a hospital, but some expecting mothers want to explore other options. If you’re considering a home birth, here’s what you need to know.

Understanding the Safety of a Home Birth

If you’re considering a home birth, it’s important that you take the time to fully understand all of the risks involved. While women have delivered babies at home for centuries, modern advancements in technology have created a safer, more sanitary environment—especially when addressing the unexpected. Always talk to your doctor about your risk factors to determine if a home birth is right for you.    

Risks and Complications

Due to the lack of medical supervision, the biggest risk of a home birth is perinatal death. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), home birth is associated with a more than twofold increased risk of perinatal death and a threefold increased risk of neonatal seizures or serious neurologic dysfunction. Having a certified-nurse midwife or obstetric doctor present will greatly reduce the risk of this complication along with the availability of emergency transport to a nearby hospital. Always discuss this risk with your doctor and make sure that you fully understand what could happen.

Home births have fewer options for pain control. You won’t be able to order an epidural while you’re giving birth in the comfort of your own home, so consider your individual pain threshold beforehand.

You should also be prepared to end up at a hospital regardless of your plans. If this is your first pregnancy, there’s a relatively high chance that you’ll end up at the hospital, so be prepared to transfer during labor if needed.

Who can Have a Home Birth?

There are some women who are better candidates for a home birth than others. If your pregnancy has been low risk so far and you have no medical conditions, pregnancy complications, or history of previous C-sections, you’ll be more likely to enjoy a safe home birth. If you have any evidence of hypertension, diabetes, chronic medical conditions, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, are at risk for preterm birth, or have had a cesarean, you should give birth at the hospital. It’s better to have immediate access to medical care if you need it rather than rely on emergency transportation.

Only consider a home birth if you’re carrying one baby. If you have twins, triplets, or more, you should deliver in a hospital. Not only does the birth get complicated and tiring, you might need a vacuum extraction during delivery of the second or third baby.

Mothers who go into labor between 37 and 42 weeks have the best chance for a safe home birth. If you go into labor before or after this time period, you will likely need some kind of medical assistance. Preterm babies need care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and late babies can have wider heads that may require a cesarean.

Finally, do not try to have a home birth if your doctor or nurse tells you that your baby is in a breech position (feet or bottom-first). Breech deliveries often require some sort of medical intervention and in serious cases, an emergency cesarean. You should only consider a home birth if your baby is properly positioned with their head down.

In Case of Hospital Transfer

Many professionals recommend having a physician or certified nurse-midwife on at your home birth just in case there’s anything that needs immediate attention. You also need to consider your proximity to a hospital and make sure that you have some sort of transportation available in case you need advanced medical assistance. According to a study done, about 40% of first-time mothers and 10% of women who have previously given birth are transferred to the hospital for delivery. This could occur for a number of reasons, but it’s always done to ensure the safety of both mother and baby. If you need to transfer to the hospital, make sure your car is ready, serviced, and has a full tank of gas—you’ll need to get there without incident.

Benefits of a Home Birth

While there are definitely risks in place of having a home birth, there are also some fairly large benefits. If you’re trying to take the most natural approach to delivery, a home birth gives you the freedom and flexibility to do so. According to mothers who have given birth at home, the biggest benefits fall under four categories: comfort, choice, health, and cost.  

Comfort

One of the biggest benefits of having a home birth is the fact that you’ll be in the comfort of your own home. You will have your own bed, bathtub, and amenities and won’t have to try to pack your life into an overnight bag. You’ll also have your own kitchen and bathroom, which can make a world of a different during and after the birthing experience.

Choice

Having a home birth ensures that your delivery goes how you want it to go. You won’t be surrounded by nurses and doctors telling you what to do, what to eat, when you can move, or anything of the likes. You get to deliver your baby the way you want to.

Health

Home births also come with a few potential health benefits. When planned correctly and are low risk, they’ve been shown to reduce maternal infections and actually lower the number of maternal interventions. In many instances, home births also reduce the number of serious lacerations or tears.

With COVID-19 and the surrounding risks and hospital limitations, more women than ever before are considering a home birth. For more information on home births and COVID-19, click here.

Cost

If you’re looking for an economic way to give birth, it doesn’t get less inexpensive than a home birth. They tend to cost about one third as much as hospital births do, which can make a huge difference if you’re paying out of pocket. However, do not move forward with a high-risk delivery just to save money—it’s not worth it.

Preparing for a Home Birth

Before you start preparing for a home birth, make sure that you talk to your obstetrician and doctor about whether or not you have any risk factors. It will be beneficial to undergo a few medical tests to make sure you have no undiagnosed conditions that could put you or your baby at risk. Once you’ve determined that your pregnancy is low risk, make the following preparations.

 

Create a Birth Plan

Think about all of the different aspects of your home birth. What are you going to use, if anything, to cope with the pain? Where are you going to deliver? Will you be in a body of water during labor or a bed? Will you immediately breast-feed? Go through all of the regular steps involved in creating a birth plan, making sure you amend them for at home delivery.

Choose Trained Health Care

We strongly recommend that you have some kind of trained and certified healthcare professional available during your home birth. This greatly reduces your risks and ensures that you take care of any complications quickly and properly. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends having at least one trained person who’s responsible for caring for your newborn and performing necessary health checks.

Hire a Midwife

Having a midwife present during your home birth can greatly reduce the chances for serious complications. Hire a certified-nurse midwife to make sure that you have everything you need for your home birth. Most midwives bring a few essential items to the birth such as oxygen for the baby, medications to slow or stop hemorrhaging, and other equipment to help promote a safe delivery and post-delivery.

Make a Plan for Complications

Always make a plan b. While every mother wants their delivery to go as planned, the unexpected does happen. Be prepared to transfer to the hospital by having a concrete plan in place. If your pregnancy strays from the determined route, play it safe and turn to plan b.

There are many health care professionals that approach home births with caution and others that strongly support it. With such polarizing opinions, deciding whether or not it’s right for you can be difficult. Always talk to your doctor about any risks and make sure that you’re fully educated and informed on potential emergency scenarios. If you’re a good candidate for home births and you think that the benefits will outweigh the risks, great. If you’re worried about things that could go wrong, a hospital birth may be best. Regardless of what you decide, make sure you’re prepared for everything by securing your insurance covered breast pump before your delivery date. Byram Healthcare has a wide variety of options to support your preferences.