Benefits of Home Births

As many of you know, I had 3 wonderful home births (kids 2-4), and if I were to get pregnant again I would certainly plan another home birth.

Many people automatically feel tense when the topic of home birth is brought up. This is due in part to the fact that so many people in our culture believe that the only “safe” place to birth is in the hospital.

Creative Commons License photo credit: eyeliam

The truth is that for healthy women having normal, uncomplicated pregnancies, home birth is safer for mom and baby.

Home births are becoming more mainstream in the States for a number of reasons. Some celebrities are known for their choice to birth at home, which is great because it leads to more publicity. Home birth is not an extreme, “out there” choice. It’s a choice that women from all walks of life are making as the best choice for themselves and their babies.

Let’s take a look at 13 benefits of home birth.

1. Safety. I already mentioned this earlier, but much of the research on home births has found that infant and mortality rates are a little bit better in a home birth. There’s less chance of c-sections, induced labor or the use of forceps, as well as other interventions that often have unintended negative consequences.

Another safety issue is that of baby being separated from mom. While we don’t hear about these cases often, babies do get switched at birth when they go to hospital nurseries. They also sometimes get bottles and pacifiers (sabotaging early breastfeeding efforts) or have their cries ignored when they are separated from mom and dad.

2. Stress. It’s widely accepted that a home birth is significantly less stressful for the mother. Instead of having to ride (horribly uncomfortable when you’re in labor!) to a hospital, you get to seamlessly labor then birth in the comfort of home. This effect is not to be quickly disregarded.

Stress makes labor more difficult and births more dangerous. Adrenaline inhibits labor. This is why so many women find that their contractions level off when they go to the hospital – the body feels stressed out and decides it’s not the right time to labor.

Also stressful is having to leave the hospital and drive home with a new baby. With home birth, you are free to relax in your own bed for as long as you feel comfortable. No nail-biting drive home from the hospital, secretly cursing every other car on the road!

3. Family. A home birth means you can have whomever you want in the room with you. Hospitals usually have strict policies about the number of people you can have around.

My children (as well as parents and two midwives) were in the home during my home births. My parents were able to share in the experience of welcoming their new grandchild into the world and were extremely helpful with my other children while I labored.

My children who observed a younger sibling being born have a very normal, healthy concept of what birth is really like. Unlike popular media images, they didn’t see a woman out of control with her legs up in the air, screaming and verbally abusing her husband and the people around her.

They saw me working very hard to do something… and then there was a baby.

4. Choices. A home birth means you can walk around, make a sandwich, listen to music, watch television, cook, do housework, etc…. or do whatever you feel like doing while you’re in early labor. (Once you’re in heavy labor you usually can’t focus on anything else but what you’re doing!) Hospital rooms are much more restrictive.

Yet this activity helps move the baby along in the birth canal and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed and tired out by hours of laboring. It distracts you and takes your mind off of the early pains that don’t really need much attention. It passes the time. During my last birth, I bounced on a medicine ball listening to Patsy Cline croon at me. Both of these things felt extremely comfortable. Later I crawled around on the floor like a crab. This also helped me deal with labor pains. Not to mention the “liquid epidural” that is the birth pool!

5. Comfort. A home birth allows you to give birth in whatever position you feel most comfortable in. The old “on your back with your feet in the stirrups” is horribly uncomfortable and does nothing to help a woman birth comfortably.

For my 3 home births, I was sitting up and squatting on a birthing stool. It was far more comfortable than my hospital birth, which had me semi-reclined in a hospital bed (no coincidence, this was the only birth that resulted in a perineal tear!).

6. Nourishment. A home birth means you can eat and drink whatever you desire. Hospitals generally restrict you from eating. Not only is there little evidence to support this practice, but it can also lead to hypoglycemia in mom and baby, both of whom are working extremely hard to birth, often for several hours.

7. Control. A home birth means no intervention – for you or baby – without your permission. Hospitals often tell you what they’re doing about halfway through the procedure when it’s too late to tell them you don’t want pitocin and you don’t want that IV stuck into the back of your hand.

Hospitals, due to litigation, often make rules that do not serve individuals, just to protect themselves. (“CYA”) No woman would choose to have a fetal heart monitor continually strapped to her body, inhibiting her movement, during labor. And there is no evidence to prove that such constant monitoring leads to better outcomes for moms and babies! It’s just CYA.

8. Bonding. A home birth means you can bond with your baby immediately without them being whisked away to be washed (unnecessary) and swaddled (also unnecessary). You can count baby toes and fingers, kiss and hold and fall in love with your baby. This is also an ideal time for the first breastfeeding.

9. Breastfeeding. Home birth and breastfeeding are a match made in heaven. Childbirth and breastfeeding are more intimately connected than many realize. The early days of breastfeeding are easier and far more cozy when a mom has given birth and recuperated at home.

10. Midwives. A home birth means you will likely use a midwife and that experience alone is enough for many women to choose home birth. Midwives tend to have a more personal approach to childbirth and their patients. They take far more time with their clients than Doctors and Certified Nurse Midwives do (the average appointment time is an hour, not 7 minutes!). Midwives stay with you during your entire intense labor experience, and for several hours afterward, to help you establish breastfeeding, clean up your home, make sure you’ve showered and eaten (if that’s what you choose), and perform the newborn’s first exam.

11. Home. Finally, a home birth allows you to recover from childbirth in the comfort of your own home. If you’ve ever been in the hospital, even if it’s for a wonderful reason like childbirth, then you know first hand that it’s not a fun place to be. Home is much better, surrounded by familiar things and familiar people.

12. Dad. Home birth makes Dad a more prominent figure in the birth. Dads are often perceived as a nuisance or something to tolerate in the birthing room at a hospital, but his presence is very important at home. He may be rubbing mom’s back, keeping her birth tub full of warm water, fetching water/juice/snacks, mopping sweat from her brow, etc.

They also are more in control of what their baby experiences in its first moments and hours of life. Dads sometimes feel misplaced by the “alpha” person in the room – the Doctor or CNM. During a home birth, a midwife doesn’t feel this way about the father of the baby. In fact, his skills may be employed to help the baby out – the same activities that put the baby in may be needed to naturally augment labor (I’ll let you use your imagination here!).

Creative Commons License photo credit: eyeliam

13. Pride. Home birthing moms tend to be a proud bunch. Having natural childbirth makes you feel amazing about yourself as a woman.  “I did that“…while the midwife is there to make helpful suggestions and in case of emergencies (midwifes are trained as well as equipped to deal with many of these at home and recognize the signs of trouble early enough for mom to transport to the hospital safely), with home birth it’s the “you, you and you” show. Many times mothers are the first ones to touch their newborn, it’s often their own hands that guide baby out of the womb and into the world.

For those of you who have experienced the benefits of home birth, did I leave anything out? What did you see as some of the greatest benefits?

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5 Responses to Benefits of Home Births

  1. Terra Jones says:

    I’d like to share my point of view – I would LOVE a homebirth (I’ll share why I will not have one (I may one day…lol) as I list my 13… :) with my first son, while pushing his heart rate continue to drop lower and lower, suddenly, it dropped to 40BPM and stayed – up until that point, my OB was totally fine (as was I) continuing to labor and push, but once that happened, we both screamed c-section as the same time. While that was very necessary (his cord ended up being too short and I was essentially ripping him from me), I hated my c-section and knew that I couldn’t (unless an emergency for myself or my baby) have another. I switched to a practice of midwives and had an unmedicated VBAC.

    With that being said, knowing that I would love to have a homebirth one day, having had two {very different} hospital births….(and knowing that NOT every hospital experience is like mine….)

    1. Safety – don’t let baby out of your sight. With a normal, uncomplicated birth, you do not HAVE to let baby go anywhere. I do agree with you on the interventions, but, speak up and say no to forceps/pit/interventions – women have a voice and they need to use it!

    2. Stress – My ctx did “die down” with my 2nd on the way to the hospital, but with my first, as soon as we got into the car, my ctx immediately got closer together and longer. With #2, my drive was much further (over an hour, compared to 30 minutes with son#1) I think my body “realized” this and allowed me to rest for the majority of the drive there – when we were about 15-20 minutes away, my ctx picked up greatly and I entered into transition on the way there. Both births leaving the hospital – I fell asleep on the way home.

    3. Family – Yes, there’s usually a number/limit to those who can be there – I was afforded the luxury of 2 doulas and my husband – but I didn’t want anyone else. A good friend recently had her second daughter and wasn’t able to drop off her oldest in time and she was able to be there for the birth with no problem what so ever – they assigned a nurse to be with her daughter and take care of her (in the whole 8 minutes they were there before her daughter was born)

    4. Choices – Stay at home as long as possible and you can do all that too. I went out to eat with family and went to a chiropractor’s appointment – came home, cleaned some, played with my son, put him to bed, roamed our apartment did everything I wanted to do til I felt it was time to leave. Once at the hospital, I was free to shower, enjoy the tub (as a VBAC I wasn’t allowed to birth in it – I was secretly hoping my labor would move so fast that I could “accidentally” have my son in the tub, but my big guys don’t come very fast, lol), I pushed on hands & knees and squatting, I danced with my husband, leaned on my doulas and birthed on hands and knees.

    5. Comfort (see above)

    6. Nourishment – I was ASKED to eat/drink in labor once arriving at the hospital – my nurses/OB/midwife were begging and pleading, but I just had no desire (probably b/c I stayed at home and ate there)

    7. Control – Most hospitals only require 15 mins of an hour of fetal monitoring – not continuous — ASK what the policies are — remember the voice we have? :)

    8. Bonding – With my c-section, my son was having breathing issues, so they needed to monitor him, but they did it all within my line of sight. With my second, I held and nursed him immediately – no bath for hours, no tests or anything. How? I said, “We decline anything that will hinder bonding until I say so.” And that was that.

    9. Breastfeeding – never had a problem BFing in a hospital. In fact, had round the clock support from my nurses and LC’s if a problem arose.

    10. Midwives – can be found in partnership w/ OB’s, and in birth centers.

    11. Home – While I want to have a home birth – I personally love the stay (I’m weird, lol) I like being able to push a button and get anything I want off a menu when I want it, get what I need when I want it – esp during the time when everyone will have already gone home

    12. Dad – the whole reason HB isn’t happening right now. My husband was THE biggest support in the room during my VBAC, even more so than my doulas (they were a huge HELP, but he was the biggest encouragement and support – emotionally and physically). He is SO not comfortable with the idea of a HB (the images of our 1st birth are still so vivid in his mind) If I were to chose a HB, I would lose my greatest source of support and encouragement. Yes, I would have that from friends/doulas/MW, but it would not be the same. He’s warming to the idea, but would prefer a birth center (VBACs aren’t allowed at ours, and I’m looking at traveling further for it) – but I’d rather have a hospital birth and his support than anything in the world.

    13. Pride – well, isn’t there some saying about pride…and a fall? ;-) But, I was VERY proud of my VBAC accomplishments – and I know I would have been no matter how things turned out – home/hospital, medicated/natural, VBAC/c-section — MY body grew this tiny person who is now one of the sweetest, most loving, funny, amazing 14 month olds I’ve ever met – how can I NOT be proud of that fact?! you mentioned the mother’s hand being the first to touch the baby – that happened with both my boys, in the hospital – I kept my hands on their heads for ass long as possible – with my 1st, that had to stop once it was time for my c-section, and with my 2nd, when I got on hands & knees to push, I couldn’t focus as well while trying to keep my hand on his head, and I didn’t get to hold him as he came out (which was the original plan) but I spoke with my midwife later and she wrote in my file that we will do all we can to make that happen next time and I have no doubt that it will.


    I understand why you wrote this post, but often, I get so heartbroken reading things like this knowing that 1- I, personally, may never get to experience it (by choice) and 2- how those who aren’t comfortable with the idea of HBing are made to feel like their decision to hospital birth is wrong/bad.

    thanks for letting me barf all over the comment box ;-)

  2. carrie says:

    Thanks so much for your comments Terra! You’re right, a woman can have a lot of control over a hospital birth provided she’s prepared and willing to be a real mama bear for her and her baby’s health :-)

    I’m sure your comment will be helpful to a mom who is unable to have a home birth. And of course, there is nothing wrong/bad about hospital birth. My oldest son was born in hospital and I have very fond memories of the entire experience.

  3. Terra Jones says:

    Thank you for letting me share :) I love your blog and have gained so much info!

  4. onlinehealthmedicine says:

    What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

  5. Selina says:

    When I have a baby one day I will choose a home birth! Thank you for posting this very informative :)

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