One of the major decisions you have to make when you are pregnant (you know, aside from choosing a doctor or midwife, naming your baby, and ten thousand other things) is to decide where you want to give birth. Although hospital birth seems to be the most popular way to go, women have been giving birth at home for centuries, and it was only up until the last century or so that hospital birth became the norm. Giving birth is such a personal and life-changing experience, it’s not surprising that home births are actually on the rise.
I know when I got pregnant for the second time, I was drawn to the amount of freedom and flexibility a home birth allowed. I’d known many mamas who'd had the good fortune to experience giving birth in their homes, and coupled with extreme PTSD from my previous hospital birth (and the subsequent loss of my child), a home birth (once I’d cleared the 37-week mark) seemed like a viable choice for me. I was one of those few unfortunate incidences where I was transferred to a hospital, but my belief that home birth can be a wonderful experience and option for many moms holds steady.
There are many reasons why parents opt to birth at home rather than in a hospital. For those who have questions about home birth and wonder why anyone would consider this a viable choice, this list is for you:
You Have A Low-Risk Pregnancy
There are many reasons why your pregnancy might be considered high-risk. Having previous losses (miscarriages, still births, etc.) will put you in the high-risk category, as will any type of illness (say, lupus or diabetes), or being pregnant with multiples. This isn’t to say someone who’s had a high-risk pregnancy can never or has never had a successful home birth (it all depends on your particular circumstances), but if you’re low-risk, there’s a good chance home birth can be for you.
This Isn’t Your First Rodeo
If you’ve given birth before, especially multiple times, and never had any problems, there’s an excellent chance you can have a successful home birth, especially if you didn’t need any interventions in those previous births.
You’d Rather Not Go Into Debt To Give Birth
I hate that this is a reason, but it’s true. If you’re uninsured, or if your insurance will only cover a portion of your labor and delivery, you might consider just doing it at home, where you won’t be responsible for much more than your midwife’s fees and any supplies you may need. In a perfect world, all births would be free no matter where you have your baby. Maybe someday.
You Want To Try A VBAC
Many doctors and hospitals will refuse to allow women who’ve had previous c-sections the opportunity to have a vaginal delivery. This puts many women in a difficult position and pushes many to opt for a home birth, most of whom are able to deliver successfully.
You Have A Great Support System Right At Home
If you’re a single mama-to-be with few to no family or friends in the area, a hospital birth might be your best option due to the amount of support you’ll receive from doctors and nursing staff. But if you’ve got lots of support from your family, from friends, from a midwife, and/or a doula (aka, folks who will be happy to do some laundry and dishes for you, bring you food and water when you need it, and even help with the baby), then being at home might be something you're better set up to handle.
You’ve Had A Traumatic Hospital Birth
Many women cite this as a reason for choosing home over hospital. When hospital staff refuse to listen to your concerns or respect your wishes, it makes the hospital a frightening place to be when you’re already at your most vulnerable. A home birth gives much of that power back.
Or Maybe You Just Hate Hospitals, Full Stop
The fact is, a lot of people hate hospitals. They feels like they're where people go because they are sick or injured. Many people don’t see giving birth as a medical emergency because it technically isn’t, and they don’t want to go to a place where folks are sick or dying to give birth, and that is completely valid.
You Prefer To Have A Midwife Over An OB/GYN
Many hospitals will not allow midwives to practice in hospitals (although luckily, that's the case at fewer and fewer hospitals), which is unfortunate because many pregnant parents-to-be prefer one over the other. In your home, you get to decide who has privileges.
You’d Like Your Family And/Or Friends To Be Present
Most hospitals won’t allow for more than 1-2 people to be in the room with you while you labor. But if you’d like to have your other children present, or your parents, or siblings, or best friends, or a photographer, you might find that to be a great reason to have your baby at home.
You Can Have A Water Birth, Easy Peasy
Although some hospitals now have showers and even tubs to use during labor, most still do not allow for this. Yet water births reduce pain and increase the energy of the laboring parent, and allow for more movement, which is why having a home water birth is just a better option for some.
You Don’t Agree With The Policies Of Your Local Hospitals
Every hospital is different, but most will require certain things, like hep-locks, while not allowing other things, like birthing balls. If this doesn’t sit well with you, you’re better off at home.
...And Aren’t Able To Choose A Different Hospital That You Do Like
If you do find a hospital that respects your wishes, they simply might be too far for you to get to in time. Or your insurance might not cover a birth at their facility. Or your doctor might not have privileges at that hospital. What a fun, complicated mess, huh?
Or You Just Live Extremely Far From Any Hospital, Period
Some people live in particularly rural areas where hospitals may take more than an hour to get to. This is rare, but if you don’t know that you’ll make it to the hospital in time, you might end up giving birth at home, intentionally or not.
You Don’t Want To Have To Labor In Your Car En Route To The Hospital
If you live in a fairly traffic-ridden city and go into quick labor during rush hour traffic, or if you’re simply scared of that possibility, you can always choose home birth.
Your Local Hospitals Have Frighteningly High C-Section Rates
If you’re concerned about being forced into an unnecessary c-section, you can always check your local hospital’s cesarean rate and go with a home birth if the hospitals near you come off a bit too knife happy for your comfort.
You Don’t Want To Have To Spend Time Away From Your Baby Once They’re Born
While many hospitals will allow you to spend all your time with your baby, some require that your baby go to the nursery for at least an hour. If this freaks you out, you can birth at home where your baby can always remain within arm’s reach.
You Can Eat And Drink Whatever You Want During Labor
I mainly labored at home and spent all night eating peanut butter crackers and drinking water which gave me the energy I needed to keep going. Most hospitals take that ability away from laboring moms, which may leave you struggling earlier in labor, and possibly more apt to require interventions.
You Live Down The Street From A Hospital In The Event Of An Emergency
If you live just a few blocks down from a hospital, you can feel more confident in having a home birth with the bonus of knowing you can make it to a hospital quickly if absolutely necessary.
You Really Want To Avoid Tearing And/Or Episiotomies
At home, you’ll be free to use plenty of lube and perineal massage and to push on your side to avoid tearing. At the hospital? I mean, you can do this, but again, it all depends on whether or not your hospital is open to letting you have the birth you want or if they're one of the facilities still intent on doing things in a limited, cookie-cutter, often-outdated way.
You Don’t Want The Temptation Of Interventions Like Epidurals
If you’re dead set on avoiding interventions (not that there's anything wrong with having all the medical assistance you want or need during labor and birth), and you know yourself well enough to know that — good intentions aside — if the help is there, you might take it (and possibly regret it later), the easiest way to do this is by staying out of the hospital.
You Want Your Surroundings To Be As Comfortable And Familiar As Possible
I mean really, what’s more comfortable than your own bed or bath tub?