Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Natural Homebirth: Some answers to your questions

Natural home birth has become as common to me as hospital births are in the minds of the majority of American women.

Strange, you ask? Yes, especially when roughly 98 percent of all American women opt to deliver in a hospital.

But I guess it's in all about with whom you roll when it comes to what you think is normal.

More of my contemporaries -- my real-life friends and acquaintances as well as online pals --have given birth at home than in a hospital setting. And these women have delivered healthy babies and have beautiful memories surrounding their children's births. After having the toddler in a hospital where discomfort was at it's peak two years ago, I knew I wanted something more -- something better -- for the next labor and delivery.

So I began asking questions. And I surprisingly found more people than I can count who wanted to answer them because they, too, had been there and found wonderful rewards from laboring and delivering at home.

Here are the questions you have either e-mailed me or left in the comments section about homebirth. I hope my answers can perhaps help those of you interested in a home birth or simply just interested in being educated about another choice women have for delivering their babies. Please note some of the questions I recieved via e-mail will have to wait to be answered until after our baby's birth day.

"Can they bring Epidurals to your house?" --Annoymous
No, not unless it's in the form of a couple shots of whiskey. Just kidding ... kind of!

"Aren't you afraid your bed will get dirty?"
Not terribly because I'd like to deliver the baby in the birthing tub.

"You want to deliver in a tub?! Won't the baby drown if you give birth in the tub?"
No, baby will not take a breath until his face hits the air.

"Why wouldn't you go to the hospital?" -- more people than I can list
Hospitals are notorious for putting laboring mothers on a time schedule. If you have delivered a child in a hospital, you know this little morsel of information is true. If a mother does not "progress" in her laboring, she often receives intervention. Because interventions are so common and birth is thought of as something that needs to be treated (like an illness), most women don't think twice about these interventions. And the hospitals and doctors really like interventions because it speeds up the labor, brings about results more quickly and interventions make money for the hospital and doctor.

"What are these interventions, and what's so wrong with them?" -- one of my really good friends who wants to remain anonymous.
Answer: The first intervention most moms have is a fluid IV. Extra hydration will often slow labor. Mom then doesn't progress as quickly, so synthetic hormones through an IV -- like Pitocin -- that strengthen your contractions to the point where they do not mimic the normal rhythm of contractions are introduced. This often leads to the mother wanting pain-relief medication like Epidurals or other medications. And pain-relief medications often lead to the mother not being able to push well thus requiring assistance in getting the baby out -- here's where doctors use suction, forceps and episiotomies to help baby get out of the birth canal. If the baby becomes distressed during this labor (which could be due to the medications mom has had), mom may end up with a Cesarean Section. See how interventions often spiral out of control?

"Isn't a C-section easier than going through all that pain of delivery?" -- anonymous
No! C-sections are major surgery, and the recovery time is often long! Also, if you want to get a good start on breastfeeding your baby, a vaginal delivery will increase your success because baby can be immediately placed at the breast after birth for suckling and skin-to-skin contact. We had trouble with the toddler nursing well because he was a little looped out from the Epidural and Pitocin. We had many struggles with breastfeeding at first, and I truly believe if I would have labored at home, I would have been more relaxed and not labored for 36 hours.

"Are you nervous about there not being appropriate medical care right there should an emergency arise?" -- Bren
No. We hired a Certified Nurse Midwife, Debbie Boucher, who has attended hundreds of births. Not only is she a nurse who is knowledgeable about how women's bodies labor and how our bodies function properly in general, she is also highly trained labor and delivery. She comes prepared with everything a level one trauma room would have. We also are good candidates for home birth because we live within ten minutes from a hospital should a true emergency erupt. Our CNM only wants us to have a home birth if we are having a normal birth; her training has given her the ability to discern problems during labor and delivery. At the sign of any problem during labor or delivery, she would insist we be transported to the nearest hospital via ambulance. This does not often happen, though, as most women have normal, low-risk pregnancies, labors and deliveries. Plus many studies, including a new Canadian one published yesterday, have found home births for low-risk mothers to be as safe as hospital birth.

"Don't you need medical care for yourself and the baby after the birth? Doesn't the baby need to be checked by a doctor?" -- Anonymous
Yes, we do need medical! Our CNM has the skills to ensure that both the baby and the mother are clearly healthy after the birth. She will assess my body post-labor, assess the baby post-delivery and stay with us until we are both comfortable and resting well. Our CNM's assistant is also a neonatal nurse at a local hospital, so she has wonderful experience with newborns and mothers who have just delivered.
The baby will be checked by our pediatrician a day or two after delivery just like any baby born in a hospital.

"Will they have oxygen ready for the baby in case it is needed?" -- Septembermom
Definitely. That is part of the package our CNM brings. It's important in case the baby or mom needs it during the labor or shortly after delivery.

"Why would you want to deliver in water?" -- a relative from my side of the family
Water births help the mother cope with discomfort and help the mother relax enough in between contractions to efficiently dilate and give birth. Being submerged in the water also helps the mother feel less of the intensity of the contractions.
Relaxation is key to giving birth, which is why most OBs want their clients to take some type of preparation class like Lamaze or the Bradley Method. I recommend the Bradley Method as it gives you many different relaxation ideas and invites you to practice them quite often.
Water births also place a certain amount of pressure on the mother's perineum, which helps decrease her risk for tearing.
Babies born into the water often have a calm entrance into the world that is quite like the womb -- it's warm and cozy after being squeezed through the birth canal.

"You're not scared even a little?" -- another relative on my side of the family
Scared isn't the right word. I'm anticipating, like most mothers do, about how the labor and delivery will go. I'm the same level of nervous I would be about an emergency happening as if I were delivering in the hospital; I know it's pretty unlikely yet not unheard of. But truly that's in the Lord's hands no matter where I deliver!
I am confident in God caring for us. I am highly satisfied with our CNM's training and knowledge, our labor assistant's experience and training and our doula's (also a midwife in training) experience and understanding of my expectations for the labor and delivery. We have picked a highly knowledgeable and experienced birth team for this delivery, but we also trust the body God has created to do the work He has created it to do.


  1. You have provided so much useful and important information. I wish I made this choice for my children's births. I know it would have been a more natural and fulfilling experience for me. Most of my memories from birthing in the hospital are not very positive.

  2. I get asked a lot about having epidurals at home (and lots of people who say they would have a home birth if this was available). That question makes me want to slam my head against a wall repeatedly because it just enforces how little people really know about the risks of an epidural. No, NO they do not do them at home and they SHOULDN'T because there are too many risks involved! Labor and birth are not medical procedures. An epidural IS. Why anyone would want to do that type of risky procedure at home is beyond me.

    Argh. Sorry to go off on a tangent, heh. I've been sitting on that little rant for awhile. :)

    Anyway, great post! I did a lot of the same research when I was contemplating my first home birth. I've had two now and they were the two best experiences of my life.

  3. Way to go! My first and likely only experience with giving birth involved every drug imaginable and a C-section, the full meal deal. I applaud you for making this decision and for educating others out there regarding its positives!

  4. I've had both a vaginal birth and a c-section.

    Vaginal birth is hands down much less painful.

    I felt pain for weeks after the c-section. in fact, one of my memories of my son's first birthday is feeling a twinge of pain in the area around the c-section scar.

  5. It's funny because I heard NOTHING about home births (or much about VBAC for that matter) before I had my two, but there is SO much now that I do hear. I think it has a lot to do with the area where I'm living now.

    How does insurance work with a home birth? I'm stil frsrated by my birth experience with Little Miss but ... obviously more than four years too late for that!


There's nothing better than good conversation ... but not while talking to myself. Will you play a part in this discussion?

AND will you pretty please have your email linked to your account or leave it for me so I can respond?

Thanks for taking the time to make these thoughts into conversation.