What do Meryl Streep, Demi Moore, Ricki Lake, Cindy Crawford, and most recently, supermodel Giselle, all have in common? In addition to the obvious – being beautiful and talented – they have all experienced a home birth. Now although no new mom will ever receive an academy award for forgoing pain medication and delivering her baby at home, a homebirth can be a very rewarding choice for some mothers-to-be to make. But is a home birth the right choice for you? Read on…
WHY A HOME BIRTH?
Women with low-risk, healthy pregnancies can consider a homebirth. Mothers who desire a natural birth with no pain medication and minimal technological interventions (cesarean section, episiotomy, or epidural) are prime candidates. Pros for home birthing include being able to move around freely in your own space, changing positions at will, showering, eating during labor, and being surrounded by as many friends and family as the mom- and dad-to-be wish. In addition, home births costs roughly 60% less than a hospital birth.
THE LOGISTICS OF GIVING BIRTH AT HOME
So if delivering your baby at home seems the right choice for you, perhaps you’re wondering where exactly you’ll welcome your baby into the world. There are a few choices to consider. The floor: Many women prefer giving birth in a squatting position, so your midwife should provide plenty of drop cloths. Your bed: Hey, most likely that’s where this whole pregnancy thing got started, right? Keep it full circle, and be sure that your midwife comes armed with enough waterproof covers to protect those 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. A birthing tub/pool: Water births have become quite popular with those desiring a natural, home birth. Usually a labor pool is rented and brought into the home, which can be used during both the delivery process, as well as during labor to help soothe contractions (water has a relaxing, calming effect).
MIDWIVES AND DOULAS – YOUR BIRTHING TEAM
When you choose to give birth at home, you are forgoing the possibility of having your OB/GYN guide you during labor and delivery (obstetricians can only deliver in hospitals). Instead, your birthing team will consist of either a trained certified nurse-midwife (CNM), a trained midwife, or a direct-entry midwife. (Note: CNMs will provide the most comprehensive care.) When choosing a midwife, be sure to ask about the services she or he provides, as well as her/his experience and qualifications, and birthing philosophies. Midwifery provides prenatal care; assists in the birthing process by letting labor and delivery unfold naturally while not intervening; and can provide postnatal care to the new mom as well. For home births, a new mom may also want to consider adding a doula to her birthing team. A doula is simply there to attend to and care for the mother’s non-medical needs, both during birth and postpartum as well. Her role is to “mother the mother.”
HOME BIRTHING ALTERNATIVE PAIN OPTIONS
Breathe, mama, breathe! Since getting an epidural or any other pain medication is out of the question when you’re delivering at home, mothers-to-be often consider other methods for managing labor and delivery pain. Lamaze is a method that focuses on breathing and relaxation techniques, and utilizes tricks and tips such as walking, massage and using a birth ball to help through the process. To fully learn their teachings, they offer childbirth education classes to help inform the parents-to-be. Hypnobirthing teaches self-hypnosis techniques as a way to encourage relaxation while removing fear and resistance through specialized breathing and guided imagery. Contrary to the name, you won’t be in a trance or be hypnotized – fans of hypnobirthing claim that it feels more like you’re daydreaming or being totally focused and calm, as if you’re engaged in a good book or staring at a fire. The Bradley Method teaches natural birth by having parents-to-be enroll in 12 classes (and read a 125-page workbook!) where they teach the birthing mother how to reduce pain by working with their bodies and their birthing coach. For more on birthing techniques, see ModernMom’s 5 Birthing Techniques.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
Most midwives are trained for healthy home birth deliveries. She or he will have on hand items such as oxygen for the baby, sterilized gloves, a fetoscope (fetal stethoscope), and medication to slow down a hemorrhage, and perhaps even some homeopathic remedies. Yet, complications may arise during childbirth, and the delivery process may have to be moved to a hospital. Complications include high blood pressure, fetal distress, or umbilical cord prolapse. A midwife is trained to know if, and when, a transfer to a nearby hospital is needed. (Note: You may want find out if your midwife works with a particular obstetrician so you can have a back-up plan in place – or ask your OB/GYN if they work with a midwife that they would recommend).
So, if you’re considering going the home birth route, be sure to arm yourself with as much information as possible so you’re a much prepared as you can possibly be. Research midwives, look into places to rent a birthing pool, and write up a birth plan in case anything changes and you end up delivering at a hospital. Also, check with your insurance company to see if they cover the costs of a home birth. The important thing is to know what you want, yet to remain flexible and open to how your birth story is going to unfold. And remember, when considering giving birth at home please discuss all your options, possible complications and any other concerns with your health practitioner. Here’s to a happy and healthy home delivery!