7 questions to ask yourself before planning a home birth

Love the idea of having a natural birth in the comfort of your own home? Here are some factors to consider before taking the leap…

home birth

A growing number of American women are choosing to give birth at home. Between 2004 and 2009, the rate of home births in the U.S. increased by a whopping 29 percent.

Women opt for home births for a variety of reasons. They might want to have more control over the birth process or to respect their cultural traditions when it comes to having a baby. Some women simply find it more convenient, while others want to labor in a familiar environment surrounded by family and friends.

But one of the most frequently cited reasons for choosing to have a baby at home is the desire to have a natural birth and to reduce the risk of interventions. A study of 17,000 U.S. women found that the rate of interventions was lower for home births than hospital births, without any increase in negative outcomes. The caesarean rate was only 5.2 percent for women who gave birth at home compared to 27 percent for women with low-risk pregnancies who gave birth in a hospital.

Is a home birth right for you? Here are seven questions that will help you decide.

  1. Does your home have a comfortable area for laboring and delivery?

Think about where you’d like to labor and give birth. If it’s in your bedroom, is it far enough removed from the rest of the house to give you some privacy from family and friends when you need it? Is your bed big and comfortable enough? Or do you prefer to remove your bed and replace it with an inflatable pool for a water birth? Perhaps you don’t want a water birth, but you’d like to have access to a bathtub or a shower while you labor. Are yours suitable? You need to make sure that you’ll be completely comfortable during the birthing process.

  1. Do you have any risk factors?

The ideal candidate for a home birth is a healthy woman with a low-risk pregnancy who is between 37 and 42 weeks pregnant and whose baby is in a head-down position. Giving birth at home could be risky if you:

  • Are obese
  • Have diabetes, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or preeclampsia
  • Are at risk or have experienced preterm labor
  • Are expecting multiples
  • Have placenta previa
  • Have had a previous C-section

If you do have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor or midwife about whether a home birth is possible for you.

  1. Have you found a midwife you trust?

Speaking of midwives, prepare a list of questions and interview several candidates before settling on one. You should ask about their training and choose a midwife who holds one of three professional U.S. midwifery credentials: Certified-Nurse Midwife (CNM), Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) or Certified Midwife (CM).

You should also ask about their birthing views and philosophies, the number of births they’ve attended, the types of complications they’re qualified to handle, what equipment and supplies they’ll bring, whether they can administer some medications in case of emergency, and what their emergency plan is if something goes wrong. Above all else, you should feel completely comfortable with your midwife and trust her with your life.

  1. Are you sure you’re OK with not having access to any pain relief?

Although your midwife will bring some pharmaceuticals in case of an emergency such as postpartum hemorrhage, she won’t have any of the pain-relief medications that are available in a hospital setting. Choosing a home birth is choosing a natural birth, so make sure you’re ok with that.

  1. How far is the nearest hospital?

If you experience any complications during labor or delivery, such as failure to progress, fetal distress or heavy bleeding, you might have to be transferred to a hospital. You should make sure there’s a hospital nearby and that you have adequate transportation. If you live in a rural or high-traffic area, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the risk of not making it in time.

  1. Does your insurance cover home births?

A home birth is usually much cheaper than a hospital birth, but you might need to pay for it out-of-pocket because many insurance companies don’t cover home births. Call your insurance company to find out what they cover, and whether they’ll cover the costs upfront or you’ll have to pay and wait to be reimbursed.

  1. Is your partner supportive?

For your home birth to be a success, you and your partner both have to believe that you can achieve it. Discuss all your joys and concerns openly, and make sure you’re on the same page. If you need a little extra support, hire a doula or ask a sister or a friend to be there during your labor and delivery. It takes a village to raise a child and it’s never too soon to start building it.