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Pros and Cons of Home Births

Pros and Cons of Home Births

Note: This is not medical advice and is for informational purposes only. If you need medical advice, contact a medical professional.

Until the development of modern medicine, most births throughout history have been home births. The experience can be extremely rewarding according to those who have experienced it. Although most women today give birth in a hospital, home births are becoming more popular. Women who prefer home births cite an aversion to birthing rooms and the exorbitant costs of a short medical stay. Home births typically include a midwife or other attendant present during the birthing process. 

In 2014, there were 59,000 births that took place outside of hospitals. 63 percent of those were home births in a residence. In fact, Vermont and Oregon had the highest home birth rates in 2014. If you are considering a home birth, you may have questions about the benefits and risks of your decision. Consult with your health care provider before making the decision to have a home birth. The sections below go over some pros and cons to giving birth at home. 

Benefits of Home Birth

You have every right to choose where you would like to deliver your baby. You may consider a home birth for many reasons when weighing the overall pros and cons of the process. Common reasons to choose a home birth include: 

  • Lower associated costs
  • Dissatisfaction with hospital or medical care.
  • Religious or cultural concerns.
  • Lack of access to transportation.
  • Wanting to give birth in a comfortable place surrounded by family.
  • Control and freedom throughout the birthing process.
  • Wanting to give birth without unnecessary medical intervention

An average home birth costs 60 percent less than a hospital delivery, making it more affordable for many families. Home birth also provides immediate bonding time between mother and child through early breastfeeding. This early feeding has been shown to transfer disease-fighting antibodies in the milk from mother to baby. 

Mothers have the freedom to choose their own birthing positions and aspects of the birthing process. Important elements include what the mother eats or drinks, the use of any candles or aromatherapy and the option of taking a warm shower or bath. Most who choose home births want to have control over the experience rather than relegating it to a doctor and his or her staff. 

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Home birth also allows you to be surrounded by family and friends you feel most comfortable with. Everyone involved is allowed to go through the experience with you and support you fully. This familiarity can be a huge benefit when going through something as emotional as giving birth. If you are religious or have specific cultural preferences, you can incorporate that in the birthing process. 

Risks of Home Birth

Although there are benefits to having a home birth, there are also risks associated. Most women who are pregnant and choose to have a home birth intend to deliver without any complications. However, research suggests planned home births tend to result in higher risks like infant death, nervous system disorders and seizures. There are three situations in which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend you do not have a home birth. These situations are:

  • You are pregnant with multiple babies.
  • You have previously had a C-section procedure.
  • Your baby is in breech position (the head does not face the birth canal). 

Planned home births have an increased risk of obstetric emergencies compared to a medical facility. Additionally, planned home births typically involve fewer medical interventions like pain medications and labor induction. Your pulse, blood pressure and temperature are not continually monitored with a home birth, nor is your baby’s heart rate. These vital signs are only checked periodically. 

If complications arise, it is possible you may need to be transported to a hospital for further medical attention during or after your home birth. Therefore, it is important to confirm that you have transportation options and provisions in place should the need arise. Time is of the essence during birth complications. Below are the situations in which you may need to be transported to a hospital for monitoring:

  • Experiencing high levels of bleeding
  • Labor is not progressing
  • You need pain relief
  • You or your baby are showing signs of distress
  • You have higher than normal blood pressure
  • Your baby is in breech position

Finally, a home birth can end up costing you more out of pocket than a hospital birth. The average cost of a home birth is between $2,000 and $3,000 with the addition of a midwife or attendant. In many cases, your insurance does not cover any costs associated with a home birth. 

Next Steps

Whichever decision you make, ensure it is the right decision for you. Research the advantages and disadvantages of this experience until you are confident in your decision. You can find home birth stories online, and many local organizations can provide you with personal support before and during your home birth. 

Your health care provider, midwife and attendant can help create a birthing plan that fits your individual needs and pregnancy. This is when you will detail emergency or contingency plans if the midwife determines there is a problem with the birthing process. It is essential to choose a midwife or attendant with plenty of prior experience in home births.

A birthing plan can help in organizing the care you receive. It outlines what you need to prepare, safety tips and other important details of home birth. It is important to note that home births can be messy. If you decide to go this route, you must be prepared with clean sheets and towels. Other supplies include antiseptic soap, sterile gloves, alcohol prep pads, gauze pads and pads for postpartum use. There are labor aids available such as a birthing pool or birth ball. You can also play calming music to help the delivery process. 

Even if your home birth goes well, you and your baby should still schedule checkups to ensure that everyone is okay. Schedule a visit with a pediatrician within the first few days following birth. Additionally, contact your health care provider within three weeks of delivery to schedule a postpartum checkup. 

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