Homebirth is safe and on the increase. You’ve probably all heard about the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows that homebirth increased 29% overall between 2004 and 2009. Homebirths increased 36% during this same time period among non-Hispanic white women.
The percentage of homebirths was higher in the northwest than the southeast and more common among older married women with several children. Most homebirths are attended by midwives. Homebirths have a lower risk profile than hospital births suggesting that midwives are selecting low-risk women as candidates
BIRTH IS SAFE IN ANY SETTING
The increase in homebirths is certainly fueled by the soaring rate of the medical interventions of hospital births, particularly cesarean surgery, and the success of Ricki Lake’s film, The Business of Being Born. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) challenges the safety of homebirth, in fact, its safety is well documented. Critics lump unplanned homebirths together with planned homebirths, but planned homebirths by low-risk, well nourished women who receive good prenatal care have always been found to be safe. In fact, birth is safe in any setting.
For most of us, it’s getting comfortable with the fact that birth is safe that is our most important preparation for birth. What helps us to get comfortable with this fact is being around others who already believe it. If you are interested in a homebirth, find the homebirth community and get involved. Read the literature on the safety of homebirth and understand the politics. Find a birth attendant who you really like and in whom you can put your trust. Don’t expect yourself to know everything, but find someone who does.
15 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR MIDWIFE
Here are some questions to ask your prospective birth attendant. Add your own.
1. What is your midwifery education and experience? What certifications or licenses do you hold?
2. How long have you been practicing? How many births have you attended?
3. Who is your midwifery back-up? Who is your medical back-up?
4. How often will I see you during my pregnancy? How long will prenatal visits last?
5. How will my partner (and children) be involved in prenatal visits, during labor and at the birth?
6. Will you provide me with nutritional guidelines?
7. What is your philosophy about prenatal testing?
8. Do you offer childbirth education classes?
9. Will you suggest non-drug soothers, and different positions during labor?
10. How long after birth is the umbilical cord cut?
11. How long will you stay at my home after the birth? How often do you visit afterwards?
12. What emergency equipment do you carry?
13. What back-up hospital do you use?
14. Under what circumstances do you transport to a hospital and what is your rate of transport?
15. What happens when there is a hospital transport?
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE POSITIVE
In addition to asking the right questions, surround yourself with positive images of and stories about birth. Look at cross-cultural art that depicts the classic image of Madonna and Child. Read homebirth stories. You can find these stories in Ina May Gaskin’s books, Spiritual Midwifery, Birth Matters andIna May’s Guide to Childbirth.
Listen to Ina May
Watch The Business of Being Born.
Come to terms with Pain in Labor.
Learn labor coping from Penny Simkin.
Birth is normal. Trust yourself. Trust the process. Trust the outcome.
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering magazine from 1980 to 2011 and the editor-in-chief of Mothering.com from 1995 to 2012.. 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 two.