Why would a woman choose to have a homebirth ?
Isn’t it for those who don’t have the health insurance and therefore can’t afford to give birth at a hospital?
Although natural birth at home was the norm throughout the centuries, when a woman chooses to do so in this day and age, she is often accused for being careless and irresponsible … or as a huge risk-taker, at best . After all, we now have hospitals with modern technology available nearby. So why not giving birth at a hospital instead, where a team of health professionals are nearby to rescue should something goes wrong ?
The first and foremost reason why a woman would want to have a homebirth instead of a hospital birth is to maximize the chance of getting the kind of birth that she wants. If you are aiming for a natural childbirth, then home is the place you want to be during the labor and birth.
Contrasting Home Birth versus Hospital Birth
To understand more easily why some women choose to have a natural birth at home, let’s compare home birth versus hospital birth and see the contrast.
When you choose to give birth at home, you also give yourself the power to do whatever you want to do during labor and birth. No one can say ‘no’ to you. Conversely, no one can force something on to you. After all, you are the queen of your home, right ?
Contrast homebirth with the hospital birth. In hospital setting, institutional policy takes the priority over the laboring women’s wishes. Sadly, often this policy was enacted with hospital and physicians’ interest in mind, instead of that of laboring women, with the goal to make labor and delivery ‘manageable’ at the hospital.
Therefore, at the hospital, your wishes are secondary. You don’t have the freedom to do whatever you want during labor and birth, and you almost cannot refuse any treatment they want you to have.
So what are the choices you can make at home that you can’t have at the hospital?
What You Can Do at Home But Can’t Have at Hospital
The following is the list of homebirth versus hospital birth in terms of the choices you have the ‘luxury’ to make if you decide to do a homebirth, but cannot usually get at the hospital :
1. you can choose when and what you want to eat during labor. If you are at the hospital, it is likely that this luxury is denied.
2. you can move about during labor and even try out different positions during labor and birth. If you are at a hospital with compulsory IV and electronic fetal monitoring system policy, it’s very likely that you will end up laboring still on the bed. Hospital may not also be ‘adventurous’ enough to allow you to labor and birth at different position.
3. you are free to labor as long as you want. You don’t have to worry if your labor turns out not to be like a ‘textbook’ labor. When you choose to have a homebirth, even if your labor is stalled for a while, nobody will try to break your water to speed up contraction, or to induce you with chemicals.
4. you can wear you own favorite gown and make the ambience of your home to be precisely like you want.
5. you are free to invite anybody you want to be present atyour homebirth.
6. it’s a sure way to have a water birth. If you give birth at a hospital, there is a possibility that you end up not having a water birth that you want which can be caused by either the hospital does not have a water tub, or that the room with the water tub is in use when you are admitted into the hospital. If you choose a homebirth, you can get and set up the water tub ready for your birth.
Things You Will Have to Do at Hospital But Not at Home
These are the thing that you ‘don’t have to do’ when you do a homebirth but will likely to be forced upon you at the hospital:
1. IV drips and continuous electronic fetal monitoring which will make you to labor on the bed.
2. induction by chemicals or stripping the membrane if your labor is considered to be too long or if the contraction is too irregular.
3. the impersonal and sterile look of the hospital.
4. unwanted hospital staff. Face it. Not all nurse are friendly. In hospital, you have to stand a not-so-friendly nurse if she happens to be on shift during your labor.
5. the fact that there is no* privacy* . In hospital, you have no control over who is present and who is not during your labor.
You may think that these choices are not luxury at all and warrant the need to have a homebirth. After all, they are only little things, right ? How come such little things make a difference ?
I would say that little things make up a big thing. So it is important to get these little things going smoothly to maximize the chance of having the big thing (natural childbirth) happens. Besides, to me, they are not little things at all.
Take the fetal monitoring system, for instance. This system, as harmless as it may seem, can actually increase your chance of having a cesarian section (c-section), while not improving the outcomes of the birth.
First, this machine keeps you in bed, regardless whether you are comfortable or not. Some moms need to move about during labor. Not only that moving about can make the labor more effective, moving or being upright may also be the position where you feel comfortable at that stage. This machine prevents you from doing this by confine you to the bed.
As a result, your labor can slow down or worse … be stalled, which can result in induction. When you are induced, you no longer follow the natural path of labor. Contractions resulting from induction are often worse and more painful than the natural ones and therefore you may not be able to withstand it without any pain relief, which by itself carries some side effects. This increases the possibility of forceps/vacuum birth or even a c-section.
Secondly, the readout from this machine is subject to wide interpretation. Actually, in this case, on and off monitoring with a dopler or fetoscope is more accurate because it establishes the trend better. With the fetal monitoring machine, every single signal is picked up and so sometimes the big picture (the trend) is more difficult to assess. Instead, the caregiver may focus on a little event (little dip or little peak in the graph) as a basis for diagnosing that the baby is in distressed and hence warrants an emergency c-section.
It is not surprising that this system does not improve the birth outcome. Instead, it is well known that this machine increases your chance of having a c-section.
You see … the little thing can make a big difference. Even one little intervention to the natural course of labor can result in a cascade of interventions, often culminating in a c-section.
Choosing to give birth at home frees moms from having to fight the “system”. Nobody can prevents you to do what you like at home, and nobody can force you to take any treatment. By having a homebirth, you increase the odds of having the natural birth that you want.