When so many women give birth in hospitals, you might wonder what are the benefits of home birth over hospital care?
As the name suggests, a home birth is one that’s planned to happen in your home environment.
Every year, around 1000 women in Australia choose to give birth in their home rather than a hospital or birth centre.
If your pregnancy is low risk and a home birth sounds like something you’d like, you can choose to hire a private midwife, or access a public funded home birth program through your local public hospital.
Private midwives work for themselves and this option costs more than a funded home birth through the public system which is mostly covered by Medicare.
There are more criteria to meet with a public funded home birth and being risked out at any stage due to changes in your health or being overdue is possible.
Affording private midwives is often an obstacle for many women who want a home birth on their terms.
There’s a number of ways you can make this happen, such as part payment plans, asking friends and family to donate towards your birth instead of buying gifts for baby showers … even selling that unused cross trainer in the garage.
Why have a home birth?
Research shows more and more women are choosing to give birth at home to avoid the medicalised hospital environment and the risks of unnecessary interventions.
Many women look to home birth after having a previous traumatic birth experience. They want the care providers of their choosing and to have one to one or continuity of care throughout pregnancy, birth and into the postnatal time.
What are the benefits of home birth?
#1: Familiar environment and people
Where you give birth, and who cares for you during that time, has a massive impact on the way you give birth.
Choosing to birth in the familiar, comfortable space you live in ensures you have the privacy and support that allows your body to labour efficiently and without being disturbed.
You also choose your care providers when you hire private midwives. This allows you to build a mutually trusting relationship, one that honours your rights to birth how you wish.
In a public funded program, you’ll have the same midwives for pregnancy and birth care, harnessing the benefits of continuity of care.
A home birth means you can have your partner with you all the time, a doula or even choose to include your other children, family or friends in the birth of your child.
#2: Having control over your choices
Many women choose to have a second or subsequent baby at home because they’ve had a previous birth experience that resulted in trauma. Most often, they describe their birth as being out of their control, having to conform to what their care providers expected.
Sadly, the mainstream maternity system can’t provide the same emotional care that one to one midwifery care does. In all aspects of your pregnancy and birth care, the birthing woman is the key decision maker and her wishes are respected.
Home birth midwives are highly experienced and trained health professionals who are able to inform you of the risks and benefits of your choices and support you to make the best decisions for you and your baby.
You are free to move, eat and drink how you wish. There’s no rules as where you need to be to labour or birth – you can have a water birth if you wish and not have to worry about being told to get out.
#3: Fewer medical interventions
More women are choosing home birth for their first babies because they want to avoid the pressure of medical interventions. Often these interventions are based around time, when the baby should be born, how long a woman should be in labour for. Rhea Dempsey, author of Birth With Confidence, estimates up to 97% of women who give birth in hospital will have some form of intervention during labour.
- Induction of labor (including membrane sweeps, artificially breaking the sac, to medical induction methods)
- Vaginal examinations
- Continuous fetal monitoring
- Forceps or vacuum birth
Often, one intervention leads to another. This is called the cascade of interventions. All interventions have risks to both mothers and babies and even the milder interventions can increase the risk of having a surgical birth.
One of the benefits of home birth is there’s no pressure to go into labor. Instead of hurrying baby out, the expectant mother is supported to allow her baby time to come when ready. There is less watching of the clock during labour and more focus on providing the right environment so mothers can labour efficiently and birth their babies.
Research shows women who plan to birth at home experience fewer interventions and more positive birth outcomes. There is also very good evidence to show planned home birth is as safe as hospital birth for low risk women
#4: Staying together after birth
One of the biggest challenges many women face after giving birth is their partner having to leave at some point. Or having to advocate for delayed cord clamping and having baby stay with you for skin to skin and the early breastfeed.
At home, this is just not an issue. Your midwives will observe you and your baby from the moment of birth until usually around two hours afterwards. They will ensure baby stays with you, supporting skin to skin and waiting for the placenta to arrive wherever you feel most comfortable.
Your partner can be as intimately involved in the birth of their child as they wish, and afterwards be encouraged to do whatever feels right for you both. Your older children can meet their new sibling in the familiar environment of their own home, encouraging early bonding.
#5: A more positive birth experience
Many women are told ‘at least the baby’s healthy’ as a sort of consolation for going through a traumatic, long or medicalised birth experience. It cements the idea that a woman’s experience during labour directly influences her birth and transition to motherhood.
A woman is at her most vulnerable during labour, both physically and emotionally. Her brain needs to feel safe so her body can function naturally and birth her baby.
With the dedicated support of known midwives, you are able to ‘let go’ and let birth unfold as it will. The sense of empowerment when your baby is born is hard to surpass.
The immediate time afterwards ensures new parents feel held and supported as they enter this new phase of life with their newborn. Women who give birth at home are more likely to rest and recover well, so they’re able to cope with the demands of a new baby.
Their midwives will come to them, ensuring breastfeeding is going well and offering reassurance new mamas often need.
More benefits of home birth
Choosing your own care provider is probably one of the key benefits of home birth. But it’s important you know whether it’s the right choice for you.
If you’re interested in having a home birth, you might like to consider Nurtured Birth’s workshop Choosing Maternity Care in Melbourne. This workshop explores the type of birth you want and how to find the right fit within the maternity system.
Another benefit is that you can choose the support people you want. Doulas are just as beneficial at a home birth as in hospital. Doulas complement your birth support team, and provide a welcome extra pair of hands and guidance to help with whatever is needed. Please contact us if you’re interested in having a doula at your home birth.