In recent years, one of the most controversial topics related to pregnancy and birth is home birthing. Many debates have been heard about whether a woman should give birth in the comfort of her own home or whether she is taking unnecessary risks by doing so.
Those who support giving birth at home claim that up until the twentieth century, most women gave birth at home even in the western world and that it is therefore not such a big deal. But those who are against it argue that it is extremely risky because if something went wrong, the emergency technology that is available in most hospitals is not found at home. If there is a crisis, time is often of the essence and the delay could make a huge difference.
So who is right or wrong? And where do you want to give birth? At home or in the hospital?
Natural Home Birth - Why Home Sweet Home May be Best
A woman may choose to give birth at home because it seems to be the most natural choice. In your own home, you are in familiar surroundings, without the clinical, alien atmosphere of an anonymous hospital bed. You can arrange the d矇cor of the room where you will give birth yourself. If you want music playing, that's fine - and the choice of music is all yours. There are no rules about how many people can be present. Whereas some hospitals will limit the number of people to being one other person, making you choose between your husband, a doula, your mother, or your best friend, if you are having your baby at home, no such formality exists.
Some women even want their children to be around, although this is a controversial issue and very much a personal choice. Others, while not having their children in the room during the actual birth, are relieved at not having to be away completely when they have a baby, and their children can be among the first to see the new baby soon after birth.
Giving birth at home also allows you to regulate your choice of pain relief. As most women who have home birthing only want natural pain relief, the lack of an epidural or pethidine does not bother them. They are more likely to use breathing exercises, bean bags, or have a waterbirth. A midwife who specialises in such techniques will guide you on the equipment that you need and how to use it. You can also use more unconventional methods, such as hypnobirthing. As long as you produce a coherent birth plan and discuss everything fully with the midwife before the actual labour, you can be extremely independent in your choices.
Another important factor in choosing a home birth is the proliferation of hospital "superbugs" that are not so easily cured with antibiotics. Many women would prefer not to take the risk of catching such a disease after birth and therefore opt to deliver at home.
Home Birth Risks
With all of the above benefits of a home birth in mind, it is still vitally important to take into account all of the inherent risks of having a baby at home.
As mentioned earlier, the main concern about giving birth at home is how safe it is for the mother or the child. In actual fact, if the pregnancy is risk free and everything goes according to plan, a home birth does not have to be dangerous. If the midwife is properly qualified and the usual safety and hygiene conditions are adhered to, there is no reason for it to go wrong. The problem is, however, if something during the labour or delivery goes wrong. If the baby goes into distress and the mother needs an unplanned caesarean section, for example, the time delay in getting her to the hospital can lead to fatal consequences.
A British study found that home births were safest among women having their second or subsequent baby without any complications.
The Legality of Home Birth
Of course, all of these arguments are very interesting in theory, but your final decision will ultimately depend on the regulations governing home births in the country where you live.
Australia, for example, has adopted a more open policy about home births, but there are variations between the states. For example, in Western Australia, health coverage was expanded to cover home births, and NSW, the Northern Territory, and South Australia also provide funds for independent home births.
However, Medicare and PBS do not provide funding to any Australian home birth services. Therefore, if you do decide to follow the route of birthing at home, you may well have to pay a considerable amount of the cost. And since July 2010, regulations regarding the professionals providing this service have been tightened up. A private, non-registered attendant at a home birth is liable for prosecution. However, it is not so easy to become registered in Australia because many private midwives are unable to obtain insurance or to apply to become recognised health professionals.
These policies have been a source of controversy in Australia, with demands to offer regulated home birthing services.
In the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, however, it is not so difficult to have a home birth and policies appear to be more open.
This does not mean, however, that it is impossible to have a home birth in Australia. In fact, various resources have been set up and there are many midwives who do offer this service.
A Breakdown of Things to Consider About Home Birthing
If you are considering a home birth, here is a comprehensive list of things to consider:
- Do you really know what a home birth entails? It might be helpful to watch a home birth video first.
- What kind of home birth do you want? Some women go for unassisted home birth, which essentially means tha the midwife is there as a safety net, but you do most of the work yourself. You may, on the other hand, prefer a midwife who is more proactive.
- Have you considered your own personal risks? If you are going through a problematic pregnancy or there is a problem with the way that your baby is lying, it may not be such a good idea because you may need emergency help that you can't get at home. Before booking your home birth, you are well advised to discuss this issue with your doctor to find out whether this option is realistic for you or your baby.
- What are the home birth options available to you? Contact a home birth association to find out. They will also provide you with support.
- Can you afford the cost of a home birth midwife? Remember that many of them are private and you will therefore need to be able to afford their services.
- Once you have found a midwife, check out her qualifications. Is she officially registered? Are her services covered by your health insurance? Ask her for references and speak to as many mothers who have used her as you can. If you find that she is evasive when you question her or that she refuses to provide references, leave it. You only want the best care for yourself and your newborn baby.