More moms are staying home when it comes to childbirth. What is driving this return to home birth, and what is the appeal?
“When I left the hospital after having my first daughter, I swore to myself and to my husband that if we were ever to have a second child, I wouldn't step foot in a hospital unless there was a real emergency.” This statement from Brittney is similar to many moms’ driving force behind their return to birthing at home instead of the hospital. Moms are realizing that birth is a natural experience — not a medical one — and many low-risk moms are preferring to stay home. Not all hospital births are bad ones, and not all home births are perfect, but there is a definite trend toward staying home instead of heading out.
Hospitals are designed to help people feel safer and cared for, but some moms feel that having a baby in a hospital (when Mom is low-risk) leads to more interference, interventions and complications.
“From the minute we walked in the door we were treated horribly,” Brittney explained. “I had this idea in my head that we were going to have a natural birthing experience and welcome our baby into a stress-free, peaceful environment, and that did not happen at all. From being made fun of for wanting a drug-free birth, having nurses refuse to read my birth plan, and being bullied until I agreed to an epidural, to having that epidural fail, and later being told that I was starving my baby for refusing to allow them to give her formula, the whole experience was just a mess.”
Heather, whose first baby was born in a hospital and second was born at home, agreed. “I think that home birthing is becoming more and more popular simply because women's hospital experiences have left them feeling defeated, like failures and betrayed,” she explained. “I think women are wising up and finding that birth doesn't need to be such a medical event under low-risk circumstances, that their bodies are extremely capable and that a lot of the medical interventions out there can hinder their abilities.”
Home birth isn’t for everyone, and in fact, if you are high-risk, it’s strongly recommended against. But even moms who have gone the home birth route the first time don’t necessarily want to do it again if given the chance. Ashley, who lives in Canada, had her first two babies at a birth center before deciding on a home birth for her third. The experience, however, was not a good one, and she plans to have a hospital birth for the pregnancy that she recently confirmed.
Ashley’s care was mismanaged by her midwives and she was left standing up in a bathtub with no assistance after having her baby, and as she was hemorrhaging, she passed out and hit her head. Even having been through a serious complication like this, she is still wary of a hospital birth. “I don't know what to expect,” she confided. “I'm terrified that my wishes won't be respected. I do not look forward to having a nurse in the room with me the entire time when I prefer to labor alone or with just my husband as my body tends to slow way down or completely stop the process when I feel crowded.”
Every birth experience is different, and not all hospitals operate the same way. Many women have enjoyable hospital births, such as another mom named Heather did with her first baby. She was admitted at 38 weeks because she had protein in her urine and they found that she was already actively laboring and dilated to 4 centimeters. “I was in labor for a couple of hours, no one bothered me, they never gave me Pitocin and he delivered naturally,” she remembered. “I think it was a good experience because I had a supportive staff who didn't want to do things to speed up something that was already going well. I did have some hemorrhaging after birth and some pretty intense internal tearing, so I was very appreciative of all the resources I had on hand.”
Those that do birth at home love to share how wonderful their experiences were. Rebecca’s first baby was born in a hospital, but her three younger children all entered the world at home.
“My own experiences have been fantastic at home,” she happily shared. “I wouldn't trade it for the world. And there is nothing that compares to the month-long birth highs you get from birthing naturally, at home, with minimal interventions. It's like you're super woman and can do anything!”
Brittney heartily agreed. “My home birth was the single most amazing experience of my life,” she said. “Being able to do exactly what my body told me to do with no intervention was exactly what I wanted, and that's exactly what happened. I gave birth to my second child in my dining room, in a blow-up pool, with the sun shining on us. It was everything I wanted. I believe in women's ability to birth babies.”
If home birth interests you, investigate what opportunities there are in your area. Are their home birth midwives available to you? Does your insurance cover home birth? If not, how much does it cost? What do you need to have in place to ensure a safe delivery, and what will your care provider do if you hemorrhage (for example, midwives usually have Pitocin on hand for emergencies)? What backup plans do you need to have in place?
Going into a home birth takes preparation, but statistics are on your side if you want to have your baby at home.
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