Just this past December, 2014, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued new guidelines for the care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth. After reviewing the evidence, NICE recommended that low risk pregnant women—the vast majority of the over 700,000 women who give birth in the UK—give birth at home or with a midwife-led unit, rather than a hospital.
As these guidelines suggest, low-risk women are better off staying at home than going to the hospital. This is because there is a greater risk of over-intervention at the hospital than there is a risk for under-intervention at home.
SOME REASONS TO CONSIDER HOMEBIRTH
- It is the birthing environment you will have the most control over. In your own home you have the best shot at deciding what visual elements, sounds, smells and faces will surround you when your baby is born. You can lower the lights, play Reggae music, or invite anyone you want to have around you to attend, if you like. Women who give birth at home do report a greater sense of control over the experience and this sense of control generally contributes to greater overall satisfaction with the birthing experience.
- At home you can avoid unnecessary medical interventions unsupported by scientific evidence, such as: episiotomy, shaving, enemas, IV, withholding nourishment, early rupture of membranes, and electronic fetal monitoring.
- There are fewer cesareans associated with homebirths than with hospital births. The CDC puts the US cesarean rate at 32.7%. A cesarean rate of 5% to 10% is optimal and a 2014 study showed a cesarean rate of 5.2% among women who plan a homebirth and transfer to the hospital.
- Many experts believe that you, and your baby, will have a reduced chance of getting an infection if you are not in a hospital. Hospitals are known for spreading staph, and other infections, around to patients. You are already accustomed to the bacteria present in your home and have probably developed some immunity to them.
- You will have unrestricted access to the birth companions of your choice, ones who are sensitive to your specific beliefs, values, and customs.
- You will have the services of a midwife, who provides continuity of care, follow-up well-baby care, and breastfeeding support.
- You can have freedom of movement and will be encouraged to get off your back and try upright postures for birth.
- You will be offered suggestions for non-drug pain relief.
FINDING A HOMEBIRTH MIDWIFE
Here are some resources for finding a homebirth midwife.
- Midwives Alliance of North America
- American College of Nurse Midwives
- International Center for Traditional Childbearing
- Citizens for Midwifery
- Midwifery Today
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She founded Mothering.com in 1995 and was its editor-in chief until 2012. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.