Is Home Birth Right for You?

Written by featured writer Emily Graham

Are you expecting a child and considering giving birth at home? Home births certainly aren’t new — women were giving birth at home long before the first hospital was ever built. Today, however, home births only account for about 1% of all deliveries.

The fall — and rise — of home births

Home births fell out of favor as doctor-assisted and medicated births rose in popularity during the 20th century. In recent years, however, interest in giving birth at home has seen a resurgenceas women seek all-natural deliveries that put them, not their physician, in the driver’s seat.

That resurgence has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many expectant parents apprehensive about hospital visits. When hospitals are packed full of sick patients, it’s easy to see the appeal of staying home.

The Benefits of Home Birth

Home births offer a lot of benefits to mother and baby alike, including an intimate setting, freedom of movement, skin-to-skin care, and a lower likelihood of medical interventions like induced early deliveries and unnecessary cesareans. Home births also let parents choose who attends the birth — an important perk during a time when many hospitals strictly limit visitors.

Water births are another major appeal of delivering at home. Water births may reduce labor pain, duration, and perineal trauma for expectant mothers. While some birthing centers offer water births, many women prefer to purchase their own pool kit for less.

Birthing balls, stools, and squat bars are more props that help women have a comfortable home birth. At home, you can also set the scene with calming scents, soothing music, and prayers or rituals to promote positive energy. Even if you’re not religious, a simple cleansing ritual can ease anxiety and fear during labor.

Who shouldn’t choose a home birth

There are a lot of reasons to choose home birth, but it’s not right for everyone. High-risk pregnancies, multiples, vaginal births after cesareans (VBACs), and breech births should be delivered at a hospital or birth center where mother and baby can receive close monitoring. Women should also think twice about home birth if it’s their first delivery. While only 9% of women who have already given birth end up transferring to a hospital during a home birth, that number skyrockets to 23-37% for first-time mothers.

Home births: Assisted vs. Unassisted

For women who choose to give birth at home, there’s another question to consider: Should you enlist the help of a midwife or give birth unassisted? Also known as freebirths, unassisted births appeal to women who have limited financial resources or prior negative experiences with healthcare providers. However, giving birth without the assistance of trained professionals poses unnecessary risk to mother and child. Without the oversight of a midwife, birth complications like umbilical cord problems and postpartum hemorrhaging are more likely to become serious.

certified midwife or nurse-midwife is the most important professional to attend a home birth, but many expectant parents opt to hire a doula as well. While midwives provide medical support during labor and delivery, doulas attend to a new mother’s physical, emotional, and informational needs.

Does health insurance cover home births?

Home births are often cheaper than hospital births, with one big caveat: Not all health insurance plans cover home births. Mothers who give birth at home without insurance coverage may find themselves paying more than they would at a hospital or birth center.

This is especially true for women covered by Medicaid, as only 21 states cover home births under Medicaid. While advocates are pushing for Medicaid to improve coverage for midwifery and home births to accommodate the surge in demand triggered by the pandemic, policy change remains a work in progress. If you’re considering a home birth, discuss options with your health insurance provider so you understand what’s covered.

Giving birth is a magical experience no matter where it happens. However, for women who want more control over their birth experience, home birth can be an excellent choice. As you weigh your labor and delivery options, talk with your healthcare provider so you can choose the best birth setting for you and your baby.

Photo via Unsplash

For more parenting and mom to be tips from Emily check out her amazing site

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