The decision a woman makes about where to give birth is a highly personal one and incredibly important. For some women a hospital is the right choice. Others may feel more comfortable in a birthing center. But for some, a home birth is the route they dream of taking.
Having had two of my three children at birthing centers and one at home, I have experienced many wonderful aspects of each scenario and have learned a thing or two in the process. Home birth can be a beautiful experience, but it is something that should be entered into with a good deal of forethought and consideration.
These are just a few questions you may want to ask yourself if home birth is something you’re contemplating.
1. “Have I done research beyond just watching The Business of Being Born?”
I’ll admit that watching The Business of Being Born is the way many a woman has initially come to consider the possibility of a home birth - myself included. But as wonderful as this documentary is, it is not enough to base your home birthing decision on. This is a great jumping off point for doing further research to see if home birth really might be a good fit for you.
2. “What are my risk factors?”
Before you fall down the rabbit hole of home birth research, it’s important to first check with a doctor about whether or not you are a good candidate for home birth or if you have any risk factors that might preclude you (think: a seizure disorder, certain STDs, heart disease, etc.).
3. “How far away from a hospital am I?”
One of the most important things to think about when considering a home birth is your proximity to a hospital. If you live in a remote area where it would be difficult to get to a hospital quickly, you may want to consider an alternative option. It’s good to know (exactly) how far away from a hospital you will be, because it is definitely a question that home birth skeptics will insist on asking you over and over again throughout pregnancy.
4. “Have you considered worst case scenarios?”
I hate to even bring this up and I realize that it may sound a bit macabre to consider, but it is important to consider worst case scenarios (i.e. death or serious health consequences) when considering home birth. As with any birth, there are potential risks, and it’s important to take a good, hard look at these risks in order to accurately weigh the pros and cons. That said, birth is a perfectly normal part of the human experience, so please believe that I am not trying to say this as a scare tactic, but as an encouragement for you to be realistic.
5. “Am I willing to do the work necessary?”
I have had quite a few pregnant friends talk about “hoping” for a natural birth and if that is your mindset, home birth may not be the route for you. Certainly a textbook labor and delivery isn’t a guarantee for any mother and it’s important to hold expectations with a light hand, but it’s also crucial to be ready to put in the hard work mentally and physically beforehand. C-sections happen (and thank goodness for them when needed!), but preparation can go a long way in increasing the likelihood of a successful birth (think, birth classes, reading books, exercises, etc.).
6. “Will I have FULL the support of family/friends/partner?”
A key component in any birth plan, but especially home birth, is the support of a partner (and/or family and friends). If you really want to have a home birth, but your partner is adamantly opposed it is still possible to have the birth you want, but it will be far more difficult to achieve. Having others surrounding you who believe in you and your body’s ability to birth and who will speak positive affirmations over you will have a substantial effect on your mental state as you enter into labor.
7. “Do you have a space in your home that is well-suited for birthing/delivery?”
If you live in a tiny, cramped apartment with paper thin walls, you may want to reconsider home birth. If there is no space for a birthing tub and you think you might be worried about having to keep down the noise level during labor, this is likely not a good fit. A woman in labor needs a bit of room to move around to find what is comfortable for her and the freedom to be as loud as she needs. Some women are quiet birthers and don’t need as large of a space to move about it, but if this is your first pregnancy and you aren’t sure what your birth coping mechanisms are like yet, you may want to hold off on a home birth.
8. “Why do I want to have a home birth?”
Above all, the decision to have a home birth is highly personal and no one else can make it for you. If you have a reason that is relevant to you, than it is a good one. But please, be brutally honest with yourself when you explore your intentions surrounding home birth. Are you doing this because your partner likes the idea, or because your mom/aunt/sister/friend had a home birth? Are you doing it as a badge of honor, because you think it will make you a superior woman or mother? Really question your motives, because at the end of the day a home birth is only a good choice if it is what YOU truly want. It will not magically turn you into an earth mama. It is a choice solely for you and your baby and whatever choice you make will be the best one.