Friday, January 21, 2011

Why homebirth?

On a recent post, a reader asked:
I have never birthed a child and I am just curious as to why so many people are choosing home births now. I imagine it's nice to be in a familiar setting, but I was wondering if you could fill me in. :)
The decision to give birth outside the hospital surprises a lot of people these days, when just about everyone gives birth in the hospital and wouldn't imagine they'd want it any other way. When we found out I was pregnant with Katie, our research led us to the decision that out-of-hospital birth was the best option for us for several reasons.

1) It's just as safe as hospital birth, with fewer unnecessary interventions.

For healthy women who are pregnant with healthy babies, it is very rare that birth turns into a medical emergency. Statistically, planned, midwife assisted home births are just as safe as low-risk hospital births. That said, a major benefit to being under the care of a midwife and giving birth outside the hospital is avoiding  unnecessary interventions. Women who deliver in hospitals are much more likely to have episiotomies, medical inductions (which can cause the baby to go into distress, among other risks), c-sections, and of course epidurals (which, despite how common they are certainly come with risks). About 1/3 of women in America give birth by c-section, and this in particular was something we really wanted to avoid, mainly because it can complicate the desire to have a large family.

With both of my pregnancies, there is a good chance medical induction would have been pushed if I had been under the care of a doctor. My labor with Katie was long and slow (about 36 hours from the start of early labor to her birth) and Benjamin was a week past his due date. Both situations were uncomfortable, but my babies and I were healthy and didn't need medical assistance to speed the process. I'm so glad we avoided it.

2) Lower risk of being exposed to infection. 
Hospitals are for sick people, and though the staff generally attempts to create a sterile environment, it's not always possible. While the environment at home is certainly not sterile, it is generally free from dangerous and even deadly bacteria and viruses. Babies born in hospitals are four times more likely to suffer from infection than babies born at home. According to this article, more people die every year from hospital-acquired infection than from all other accidental deaths combined. 

3) Midwives give better care.
This is, of course, subjective and probably depends greatly on the specific midwives and doctors. In general, midwives are known for their very personal and intimate care. I know my health care providers from both pregnancies quickly became (and have stayed) friends. They took time to talk and answer questions at each prenatal appointment and were very accessible in between appointments. Additionally, the postpartum care was excellent. The midwife who took care of me during my first pregnancy was instrumental in our breastfeeding success, which I am so thankful for!

Also, midwives are trained to deal with problems naturally using herbs and homeopathics rather than automatically resorting to pharmaceuticals. I much prefer natural methods whenever possible, and being under the care of someone trained to use them properly is a big plus for me.

4) It's more affordable.
Of course if we thought the hospital was a safer place to be for birth, this wouldn't be an issue and we'd gladly spend the money it would cost to deliver in the hospital. However, in our minds, we're paying much less for something far superior. All of the expenses for my care over the course of my pregnancy with Benjamin were under $4000 (and were paid in full by other families who are members of Samaritan). As you may have read if you've been around this blog a while, Katie was born at the hospital after a transfer. The expenses were much higher.

All that said, my hospital birth was not a bad experience and I was still able to have the natural birth I had hoped for. However, after giving birth at home, I would never choose anything different. However, if the need for medical intervention were to arise, I'm really thankful we could get to a hospital and have that care relatively quickly. It really is a blessing for it to be available in case of emergencies.

What about y'all? Do you prefer to have your babies at the hospital, a birthing center, or at home?


  1. My first was with an OB at a hospital, w/ an induction. Second was with a midwife at a hospital birthing center, also induced and pain-med free. Best birthing experience thus far...I love my midwife!

  2. I went to an OB/GYN practice that included 2 doctors and 4 midwives so I feel like I got the best of both worlds. I gave birth in the hospital and it just happened that one of the doctors was on call. However, the midwives are free to deliver at the hospital as well. I really recommend going this route for anyone who wants the safety net of a hospital but more opportunity for a natural birth.

    How does your insurance work? Do the families pay your costs before you give birth? Or do you pay up front and then get reimbursed by the families? That is something I've been wondering about.

  3. Erica, Sorry I'm just now replying to your comment! We submitted an itemized statement from our midwife before the birth and the other families sent us checks prior to his arrival.