8 Reasons To Have A Home Birth

Home birth. Only about 1% of women in the United States have a home birth, although this trend is on the rise. As a home birth mama I devoted my first pregnancy to learning about birth. I educated myself about birth, both in and out of the hospital, differences in providers, and how our cultural conditioning effects our beliefs about birth.

I became committed to having a home birth because of my research. One of my deepest purposes is to uncover our inherited cultural fear about birth and normalize birth. These eight reasons to have a home birth were critical in my decision.

Birth is a natural, physiological process. Firstly women need be supported to understand birth as a natural, normal process. Birth should not be a medically-managed health pathology. Unless, of course, it is. High-risk pregnancies should give birth in hospitals. Home births are for healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

#1: Choose Your Birth Support Team

Unlike hospitals where your care is subject to whichever OB is on call or nursing shift changes, home birth allows you to chose your support team. These are the people who you will have been meeting with your entire pregnancy. They understand your birth goals, your fears, your body and your baby.

A home birth support team typically consists of your midwife, a doula (highly recommended!), your partner, siblings, and whoever else you would like there. Since it is your home, there is no limit to who gets to be present at your birth! For me, it was my husband, my midwife, her assistant, my doula, and my dog.

With home birth there is no disruption in care. It is simply your trusted team of care providers, support persons, and loved ones. It doesn’t get much cozier than that!

#2: Eat and Drink When You Want

An outdated rule of most hospitals is that women cannot eat or drink anything more than ice chips. Women used to be completely sedated and intubated for a c-section. Intubation can increase the chances of aspiration (inhaling food or liquid into the lungs) and causing pneumonia. It was very dangerous. Anesthesiology has advanced considerably and aspiration is extremely rare. Most hospital policies do not represent this reality. Instead they stick to the status quo and protect their liability.

Birth is extremely exhausting. It is long. Contractions increase in strength and duration. Women are in a sustained battle that requires stamina and physical endurance. Bodies and muscles require nutrients and calories to perform efficiently. Did you know that the strongest human muscle by weight is the uterus? Now imagine starving that muscle of vital nutrition and energy during its greatest feat.

To be fair most women are not going to eat during active labor. However in early labor, while contractions are manageable, it makes sense for women to eat small, nutrient-dense snacks that will boost energy when they need it most. You can’t do this in a hospital. If you’re at home, break out the bone broth and nuts for a light snack!

When you run a marathon, you have water breaks along the route. If you birth in a hospital, you have ice chips to crunch on. Lastly, when you birth at home, you have access to water any time. Again, it doesn’t make sense to dehydrate your body during the most trying physical experience.

“The research suggests that the energy and caloric demands of laboring women are similar to those of marathon runners, Harty said. Without adequate nutrition, women’s bodies will begin to use fat as an energy source, increasing acidity of the blood in the mother and infant, potentially reducing uterine contractions and leading to longer labor and lower health scores in newborns. Additionally, the studies suggest that fasting can cause emotional stress, potentially moving blood away from the uterus and placenta, lengthening labor and contributing to distress of the fetus.“ American Society of Anesthesiologists – “Most healthy women would benefit from light meal during labor” https://www.asahq.org/about-asa/newsroom/news-releases/2015/11/eating-a-light-meal-during-labor

#3: Move Around Freely

Labor and birth are helped by movement. The baby has the incredible job of maneuvering through a narrow pelvis and into the birth canal. Working as a team is the only way mother and baby will be able to succeed. Mothers need to be allowed to move in any way and into any position that feels natural for their labor. If a birthing mother feels safe and comfortable, she’ll be able to tune into her intuition. Intuition will take over and she will move her body in ways that will help the baby into a better position for birth.

At most hospitals mothers are hooked up to continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM). Despite its widespread use in hospitals, EFM is not an evidence-based practice and has not been proven to improve fetal or maternal outcomes. In fact it has been linked to a higher rate of first-time cesareans. Additionally continuous EFM limits the ability of the mother to move around freely and get into positions that would naturally support her baby’s descent into the birth canal.

I labored and birthed my child on my knees, leaning over my bed, my dresser, and finally the birth pool while holding onto my husband. I was able to move around freely. My midwife checked the baby’s heart tone with a hands-on doppler throughout labor. I was never disturbed to fix the monitors or told to be a certain position to get a better read. I instinctively birthed my child the way my body directed me.

#4: Avoid the ‘Cascade of Interventions’

By choosing a home birth you avoid the ‘cascade of interventions.’ This is a term you will hear thrown around to describe what happens in many hospital births.

For example: A woman is told she will need to be induced. She goes in for an induction at 39 weeks. By the time she is dilating, she is exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Labor is extremely painful due to the artificial hormones forcing her body into labor. An epidural is requested. The epidural helps with the pain but stalls dilation. The mother cannot move to help her baby through the birth canal. Eventually the fetus is showing signs of distress. An emergency c-section is ordered.

This is not an uncommon scenario for low-risk pregnancies. One intervention increases the likelihood of the next intervention. The c-section rate for low-risk pregnancies is 30% in the United States. Most midwife practices have a c-section rate around 5%. The major difference is interventions. These interventions, when necessary, are amazing and life-saving. However they are utilized far too often for low-risk, non-emergent pregnancies. If physiological labor was allowed to unfold the outcomes for both mom and baby would be better.

“Recent studies have found that when compared with planned hospital births, planned home births are associated with fewer maternal interventions, including labor induction or augmentation, regional analgesia, electronic fetal heart rate monitoring, episiotomy, operative vaginal delivery, and cesarean delivery Table 1. Planned home births also are associated with fewer vaginal, perineal, and third-degree or fourth-degree lacerations and less maternal infectious morbidity 18 27 31 32.“ The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Planned Home Birth https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2017/04/planned-home-birth

#5: Your Birthing Environment Matters

Did you know labor can straight-up stop if a woman feels threatened or is in fear? This is an evolutionary physiological response. Like other mammals, women would find a safe, secluded place to give birth and if a predator or a threat appeared, labored would completely stall so a women could get away.

Of course, a hospital is not at all similar to the threat of a predator! However being in an unfamiliar environment, with bright lights, loud noises, and strangers in your birthing space, can be disruptive to natural labor. Many women labor at home only to arrive at the hospital and have contractions slow down or disappear. Women can modify a hospital birth by turning off all the lights, holing up in the bathroom with electronic tea lights, diffuse lavender and clary sage.

The bottom line is that a women’s environment matters while she is in labor. If a woman feels safe, private, and comfortable labor will likely progress smoothly. When you are at your most vulnerable, physically and emotionally, no place feels safer and as comfortable as your own bathroom or bedroom. My home was my oasis during labor. Never underestimate how a women’s environment can affect her mental state during labor and birth.

#6: Midwifery Model of Care Supports Birth & Informed Consent

Midwifes have been birthing babies for centuries, if not millennia. Women supporting women was the norm until around the 1930’s with introduction of obstetrics. I won’t get into the history of midwifery but it is in an interesting and sad tale of patriarchy and loss of autonomy for birthing women.

If you are considering a home birth with an attendant, a certified midwife is likely your only option. The midwifery model of care believes in physiological birth. The belief is that birth is normal and natural for women and if left undisturbed, most healthy women will deliver babies with minimal to no intervention. For example, my cervix was never once ‘checked’ before or during birth. Not because I denied it (although it would have been respected if I had) but because checking my dilation was not necessary.

Any healthcare concern, procedure, or decision is discussed with you as a partner. You are never told what is going to be done to you; rather you get to make the decision if that is okay and understand why it is suggested. Every decision you make will be with informed consent when working with midwives. I have never felt more important, empowered, and respected in my healthcare than when working with my midwifery group.

This is not to say there aren’t amazing OB-GYNs. I have been lucky to have been a patient of a few wonderful doctors. When I needed a surgeon, he was there for me. Midwives’ sole purpose is to support women in physiological birth, empowered decision-making, and act as an advocate for women’s health.

#7: Uninterrupted Time With Your Newborn

Once my baby was born, he never left me. When he was weighed and measured, it was at the end of my bed, for maybe a few minutes. Minutes after he was born, we were in our bed snuggling and the birth team was drinking coffee in the kitchen and cleaning up. I cannot express the peace and gentleness of the immediate postpartum experience. This is 100% unique in a home birth. You are never separated from your newborn.

There is no rush to wipe off the vernix, cut the cord, push out the placenta, weigh, measure, poke and prod. I remember the time following the birth as warm, loving, cozy, safe, and slow. There is no worry about the car seat or the ride home. Visitors can come over at your discretion. You can eat whatever you want afterwards, in the comfort of your own clothes, in your own bed. And it bears repeating, your baby never leaves you. I know some are skeptical that a new mother needs rest but I don’t think any new mother wants to be separated from her newborn.

#8: Belief & Trust In Your Body & Mind

Home birth is not for everyone. Heck, it is not for most women. Although I think it could be if we reframed our cultural perception of labor and birth from a medical condition that requires medical intervention, to a normal and natural physiological process.

In order to have a successful home birth, even one that ends in transfer, you need to unequivocally believe that your body was made to give birth to your baby. Home birth requires you to believe in and love your body in ways that women in America are not accustomed to or comfortable with. It all comes down to one word: trust. Trust that your body can grow a healthy baby and can birth that baby all by itself, because that is what it was meant to do.

The second component to success is your mindset. Once you have educated yourself about birth and decided that a home birth is right for you, working on your mindset is an ever-changing commitment you must make to yourself. Being physically strong will not get you through this challenge. Making sure you are mentally-prepared for the unpredictability of birth and the struggle of labor is key to making sure fear does not seep into your subconscious.

Birth will change you. But you have a say about what kind of birth you will have. You have a choice to make about your mindset, your beliefs about birth, and your beliefs about your body’s abilities (which are divine). Home birth will challenge everything you have been taught about birth. And it promises to transform who you are as woman and who you will be as a mother.

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