There are many myths and misconceptions about labour at home. So, here’s everything you need to know to help you decide whether home birth is right for you.
For thousands of years, women have been giving birth in the comforts of
their own homes. It is highly likely that even one of your parents or
grandparents was delivered with the help of a midwife. In fact, childbearing women
did not make the move from home to hospital until the 20th century!
These days, there are many myths and misconceptions about labour at home. So, here’s
everything you need to know to help you decide whether home birth is right for
What does a homebirth entail?
As the name suggests, homebirth is electing to deliver your baby in a
non-hospital environment. It is also opting for the natural birth process; meaning without the assistance of
anaesthesia, induction, and/or other medical interventions (such as stirrups,
forceps, and ventouse—yikes!) all of which are typically found in clinical
To elaborate: the labour process starts spontaneously without medical
prompt (induction), continues without
the use of medical pain-relief (epidural, nitrous oxide, etc.) and the baby
is born without the aid of equipment or an unplanned Caesarean procedure.
In addition to the location swap, instead of an obstetrician, your baby is delivered by a midwife. A
midwife is a highly-skilled and trained specialist who will educate and guide
you through the process of your pregnancy, labour, childbirth, and post-partum.
As with other health care professionals, midwives have successfully completed
education programs in their field, and are registered and legally licensed to
Am I a good candidate for homebirth?
If you are comfortable with having a home birth and are surrounded by
your supporting partner, friends, and family, then technically you are a good
candidate. However, certain medical ailments may prompt doctors and midwives
from recommending home birth. Your pregnancy
usually needs to be deemed low-risk, meaning there are little to no factors
about your health that complicate the pregnancy and endanger you or the
High blood pressure, anaemia, diabetes, and various other pre-existing
conditions may categorise you as “high-risk” and disqualify you from homebirth.
Twins or multiples, preterm labour or foetal mal-presentation could also lead
you to hospital birth. When choosing a midwife, it’s important to discuss what
experience she has with any of these factors and whether she has the skills to
handle these or other conditions.
Reasons and benefits for home birth
Comfort of your own home
Factors of a clinical environment, such as bright lights, the
often-shared accommodation, and even just the sheer amount of people -doctors,
medical students, nurses, other patients- present during labour, may cause
discomfort, anxiety, and possibly foster medical complications.
Many women choose home birth because they may feel safer, have more
privacy, and can be surrounded by family and/or friends to support them through
the birthing process. No strange nurses you don't know doing routine vitals due
to shift-change. In the comfort of your home, you can: rearrange furniture,
have access to your favourite blankets and pillows, use aromatherapy, dim the
lights if you want, stand up, sit down, take a shower, yell, sing, or play
music— whatever you desire— because you are delivering in your own home!
Natural birth is likelier
If you wish to have a natural birth you may benefit from having your
baby at home. More often than not, women who choose to give natural birth at a
hospital will end up receiving medical intervention. This may be because, since
medical advancement and the move to hospitals, childbirth has been increasingly
seen as a clinical procedure, rather than the beautiful natural phenomenon that
A clinical setting (think those bright lights and constant
interruptions) will elicit a stress response in most women going into labour-
similar to fight of flight.Labour may
be prematurely over-diagnosed as slow or stalled (failure to progress).
Whereas, you may be unnecessarily induced in a hospital; a trusting
relationship with your midwife may alleviate your fears or anxiety during
labour and help you successfully birth your baby naturally.
More personal and specialized care
If electing homebirth, you will choose a midwife well ahead of your due
date. You will get to hand-pick your medical team; create and foster a
relationship with them well before your baby is born; and this bond will
continue into the postnatal care.
In a hospital setting, nurses and doctors may check on you
intermittently and take vitals as needed; but they will still prioritize
patients based on the severity of their conditions. With a midwife, you can be
assured that you and your baby are the entire focus. With hospital-birth, there
is no continuation of care between the nurses or midwives present in the
delivery room and the post natal check-ups. Consider if having a more intimate
and supported beginning into parenthood is important to you.
Some other reasons for homebirth
are: lower risk of infection for both you and your baby; lower risk of
C-sections and other often-unnecessary or pre-emptive procedures than
hospital-elected births; no need to travel during labour (unless your midwife
advises transfer); delayed cord-cutting or water-birth; and most women having
had acquaintance with both options, report a generally more positive experience
Common concerns surrounding home birth
Is home birth safe?
One of the biggest reasons mothers-to-be forego homebirth is a concern
for safety. There are many debates and varying reasoning surrounding the topic
within the medical community, all of which is inconclusive to favour one method
or the other. A lot of professionals will argue that there are risks and
complications associated with home birth; which may include malposition (the
baby turning the wrong way), haemorrhaging and lacerations, dips in the baby’s
heart-rate, among others.
It is important to acknowledge
that complications -prior or during labour- may arise regardless of where you
give birth. Your midwife is trained to recognize if your labour becomes high-risk
and the delivery is too unsafe to continue at home; and it is their duty to
advise when transfer to hospital is required. They are bound by their
registration and licences to carry out emergency measures as needs arise; your
safety and that of your baby are their only priority. It is also noteworthy
that the Australian College of Midwives supports homebirth for women with
low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancies.
Will there be medical supplies?
One too-common of a misconception around homebirth is that there will
be lack of medical supplies. For some reason, the idea of homebirth takes most
people back to some frightening, archaic, primitive time; where the village
witch-doctor delivers a baby in the bush. Fear not; your midwife will be well
equipped with an oxygen tank, resuscitation equipment, IV supplies, medication
for bleeding, and other instruments that they may need in the case of
Pain relief is another deterrent against homebirth for many women.
Regular exercise and healthy habits such as balanced diet, and avoiding smoking
and substances, will not only be good for general healthy in-utero development,
but may assist with pain management during labour. Other methods to subside the
pain can include breathing techniques, hot/cold packs, showering and immersion
(bathe!) and support from your partner can help decrease labour pains. If it
becomes too unbearable, you and your midwife can decide if transfer to the
hospital is imperative.
What about clean up? Isn’t it
We were not being cheeky when we said your midwife will be your best
friend. Your midwife will be prepared with large, disposable, waterproof pads
or sheets, to cover the birthing surface. Unless you request to keep the
placenta and cord, they will also be taken care of.
Enlist the help of your partner
or friends for filling up the birthing pool, if water birth is the method you
choose, just as you begin labour. Whether purchased or hired, birthing pools
come with all the bells and whistles— covers, liners, pumps and so forth. Needless
to say, someone else will take care of the cleaning so you can focus on your
Dealing with possible complications
It is paramount to keep in mind that complications can arise during
homebirth, as well as in hospital. Medical emergencies often discourage
mothers-to-be from the home-birth process. Rest assured that if the birth
becomes high-risk, your midwife will assess the situation and advise that the
delivery must proceed to the hospital. Here are some hurdles you could
Blood loss (post-partum haemorrhaging)
Your midwife will have access to drugs that will help to expel the
placenta. They can make the uterus to contract and also control bleeding. If
the bleeding does not subside, your midwife will advise transfer to hospital.
However, the risk of excessive blood loss after birth is actually lower with
home births than hospital births, as hospital interventions such as induction
and assisted delivery.
Looped umbilical cord
About one in three babies get tangled up in the umbilical cord. If the
cord is not too tight, it can unloop and most of the time you can proceed with
vaginal home birth. Your midwife will be monitoring your baby’s heart rate
closely— an increased heart rate will show that the cord is tight enough to put
the baby in distress and sometimes transfer to hospital will proceed.
An emergency caesarean is only needed if the birth has not progressed
enough and the baby is in serious distress. These are possible but less likely,
as majority of homebirths make the mother and baby more at ease than hospitals,
and labour progresses naturally on its own without complications. Your skilled
midwife will guide you through every step along the way.
Baby slow to breathe
Sometimes babies are slow to breathe after spontaneous natural birth.
Your midwife will have equipment and be skilled to perform emergency
resuscitation if it is required. Stimulating the baby by vigorously rubbing the
skin; manual mouth and nose suction; and oxygen ventilation are ways to
resuscitate a slow to breathe newborn. If at any point the situation becomes
more complicated than your midwife is equipped for and transfer is necessary,
the ambulance will have emergency equipment.
How to have a home birth?
There are two main ways to elect a homebirth in Australia. You may
employ a privately practicing midwife
(PPM) or link through a public hospital
program. Both may be eligible to be covered under Medicare or through your
own private insurance- the details vary depending on which state you live in
and your insurance provider.
There are about 12 publicly funded homebirth programs around Australia,
with the exclusion of Queensland, ACT, and Tasmania. However, this number is on
the rise as home birth regains popularity. It’s advisable to confide in friends
and family who’ve elected homebirth, or reach out to midwife communities for
information—there are many available on social media platforms. Your doctor can
also refer you to a midwife network or registry, or even personally recommend
Not everything goes according to plan
All right, so you’ve created
your perfect birth plan in your head, down to the temperature and the song
playing in the room. But, sometimes, babies can be stubborn hotel guests who
want to stay past their reservation. Other times, they may want to vacate early
and ditch the bill. It’s okay. It’s important to also have a “plan b” in place,
in case the delivery decides to go that way.
Registering at a nearby
hospital in advance of the due date can be a reassuring for both you and your
midwife. Many women report being satisfied that at least part of the birth
process took place at home. What matters most is that both you and the baby
receive the best medical attention necessary.
Everybody seems to have an opinion
You may be challenged by
friends, family, and even medical professionals regarding making the decision
about home birth. Someone knows someone who's had a complicated or high-risk
pregnancy and they will advocate that you absolutely must deliver your baby at
the hospital or else. Do not feel pressured or discouraged. It’s all about what
you think is best for you and your baby.
It is very important to consider home birth well ahead of your due
date. Having the support of your partner in the decision is vital to having a
successful non-hospital delivery. Barring medical reasons that may disqualify
you from being able to have a home birth, the setting is entirely up to you and
Give yourself ample time to ask all the questions and make an informed
decision.Whether give birth at home
with your elected midwife; at a private birthing centre; or the public
hospital— focus on the adorable little life you’ll be bringing into this world.
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