Until the 50s, having a home birth was the usual, but the tendency changed over the years, as hospitals could provide extra monitoring and immediate medical assistance.
In fact, if you ever had the chance to ask your grandmas about it, they probably told you how things used to work back then when it came to having a child. Although those times are over, there are people who still prefer home births over welcoming their babies in a hospital. These couples are often driven by the desire to give birth in a familiar environment, with limited medical intervention and more control over certain aspects of the process, like shifting positions or moving around freely during labour.
The home birth rate in the UK is roughly 2.5% of births, which isn't much, true, but it's good to know that this is an available option. But how does it exactly work? If you want to find out all the information about current home births, go ahead and keep reading.
What happens in a home birth?
It's easy for us to picture a woman giving birth at a hospital while surrounded by a medical staff. However, when labour takes place at home, such a classic image turns into a more intimate process, often only assisted by a midwife or a doctor.
Once you get the OK from your health care provider to have a home birth, in other words, when you meet the necessary health conditions to do so, you can just expect the minimal medical attention during labour. Particularly, the person in charge will periodically monitor your pulse, temperature, blood pressure and the little one's heart rate. If everything turns out well, he or she will examine the newborn and, depending on how he's born, the baby may or may not be transferred into a hospital. After birth, your midwife will ensure that you recover well through home visits that can also include lactation support.
Why to choose a home birth... and why not
As pointed out at the beginning of the text, there are several reasons that lead couples to choose home births rather than, let's say, conventional ones. The main one normally has to do with welcoming your child in your element, surrounded by your family, on your bed and without dealing with all the hustle and bustle of a birthing room. But also, because you just want to live birth in a more natural way, if possible without pain medication. Other times, home births are part of cultural or religious components, no matter how risky they are in regards to women's health.
Nevertheless, some studies have shown that infant death risks are double to triple times higher in home births than in planned hospital births. Although the overall risk is low, this is one factor that dissuades some people from choosing the first option.
When not to have a home birth
Though having a home birth is a personal decision, there are circumstances under which it isn't recommended. For example, if you:
- Underwent a C-section in the past.
- Have chronic diseases, such as diabetes, seizure disorder or chronic hypertension.
- Have a preterm birth, less than 37 weeks, or go overdue, more than 41.
- Develop pregnancy complications, like preeclampsia.
- Are carrying multiples or your baby isn't coming head-first.
- Can't guarantee professional help or can't be transferred to a hospital in less than 10 or 15 minutes from where you live.
What happens if you need to go to the hospital?
Being moved to the hospital is a possibility that you shouldn't discard when having a home birth. Actually, you might as well pack a bag to bring with you just in case, since such transfers are pretty common. Let the midwife take care of the situation, making the proper arrangements to call an ambulance whenever she feels that it is necessary. Normally, you could be transferred into a hospital during a home birth when:
- Labour stops and, as a result, there's no progress.
- There are traces of meconium in your waters.
- Your baby is showing signs of distress. For instance, having an abnormal heart rate.
- The umbilical cord comes out of the uterus before or with the foetus, which is known as umbilical cord prolapse.
- The placental lining peels away from the uterus before delivery.
- Your placenta is partially delivered or not delivered at all.
Sometimes, you don't even have to suffer from any of these complications to be sent to the hospital. For instance, you may be getting on the ambulance too if you can't handle the pain and need an epidural or a spinal. Also, and though your midwife may be able to stitch up a tear, you'll need to go to the hospital if you get a bad one, which isn't uncommon.
How to plan a home birth
When having a home birth, planning ahead is essential. You have to start by choosing a trained caregiver to assist you. Make sure to contact either a doctor or a certified nurse-midwife who has formal contact with health care specialists or past experience collaborating at a hospital. You can also consider additional support by a doula, who can help you deal with labour emotionally and physically.
Once you've got your 'personal' staff, you should write down your preferences in a birth plan. Don't forget to include aspects such as pain-relieving methods, the place of the house where you are going to deliver, who's going to be there, and all the equipment you'll need during the process (plastic sheets, old towels and warm blankets, among others). Of course, you have to talk to your midwife about making arrangements with the closest hospital with 24 hour-maternity care, so that you can be moved to it promptly if necessary. Finally, be sure to choose a paediatrician who can check your munchkin within a few days after birth, along with postpartum care.
Bear in mind that the cost of hiring an independent midwife ranges from 2.000 up to 4.500 pounds, including pregnancy, labour and birth care. Again, you and Dad are the ones to decide whether a home birth is worth it, considering its pros and cons. After all, and as long as it's possible, the point is for you to feel comfortable with your choice and take the right measures to make it safe.