The Benefits of Home Birth

| 2/9/2015 11:32:00 AM

In our society, home birth is often considered to be countercultural and rare, yet a small but slowly growing number of women are choosing to give birth to their babies at home.  Why, in a land of advanced technology and hospitals, would a woman make this choice? If you’ve been toying with the idea for your first or next child, but haven’t quite made the decision yet, take a look at these five benefits of home birth.

Home Birth
1 1/2 year old Regina kisses her new sister. Photo by Daniel Penny

5 Benefits of Home Birth

Safety. Although the advanced technology found in hospitals saves lives in emergency situations, that same technology can pose grave risks. After all, birth is not an emergency; it’s a natural and normal process. Pitocin, for example, which is frequently administered to begin or speed up labor can cause longer, more intense contractions, often resulting in fetal distress and a C-section—a major surgery which brings risks of its own including infection for the mother, difficulty breathing for the infant and high-risk birth for future pregnancies. Statistics confirm the risks of technology: In Sweden, where home birth is common, there were only 4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010, while the United States reported 21; the infant mortality for Sweden was also lower. Low-risk mothers—who desire to avoid the potential risks associated with technology—may feel safer at home and understandably so.

Comfort. Much of the pain of labor and birth is caused by tension. The stress of being in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by strangers and machines, with nothing to think about but the progress of your labor can bring on enough stress to greatly increase your pain or stop labor altogether—which is what the body does if you produce enough adrenaline. Wouldn’t it be better to relax in your own hot tub or easy chair; read your favorite books; or do some light chores in your own kitchen to keep your mind distracted and your body relaxed?

Control. Hospitals may claim that they are up-to-date with all the latest trends in natural childbirth, but often when the time comes, so do the excuses. Laboring mothers are told to lie on their backs for a good part of every hour so the nurse can get the fetal heart rate—even though a midwife can get the same data while the mother stands or sits in a matter of minutes using a fetoscope! Discomfort due to your position, alas, often leads to an epidural, which can slow labor and require pitocin—haven’t we been here before?

Most hospital births occur with the mother lying flat on her back with her feet up. In 2004, the Journal of Perinatal Education noted that other positions actually allow more blood to flow to the uterus, resulting in less pain for the mother, more regular heart rate for the baby and shorter births. Take control in this enormously life-changing, life-giving, sublime moment of life by choosing to labor and birth in the position that is right for your body and your baby—doing so at home will give you tremendously better odds of doing that.

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