My wife and I are big advocates of homebirth. We’ve birthed several of our babies at home, and will do so again for our next one (due in May). While I can’t say that homebirth is for everyone, if you are leaning that direction, there are some questions that you ought to try to answer for yourself before you decide.
Do you have all of the knowledge you need about homebirth in order to make an informed decision?
There are a number of great homebirth books that will give you the basics, and the web is a super place to find resources. Our favorite birth book is Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin. One other excellent book by her is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Another super title is Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth, by Jeannine Parvati Baker. Laura Shanley’s Unassisted Childbirth is geared toward those wanting the unassisted experience, but is inspiring to all who wish to pursue a homebirth. For web resources, try (a midwife’s site) or Midwifery Today.
Is your home a comfortable place to give birth? Do you feel safe and supported there?
If you answer no to either of these, you might consider going to a birth center or having a hospital birth with a midwife in attendance (instead of an OB/GYN). If you live in an apartment with no close community, you may find yourself trying to keep the noise down (some mamas make a lot of noise during birth) or otherwise not being yourself. Being relaxed and comfortable during birth are essential, so keep that in mind when making the decision.
Do you know any midwives? Are you going to want to have a Doula with you?
Interview several midwives to find the one that you resonate with. She should make you feel comfortable and supported, because it’s your birth, not hers. Midwives are trained and certified, with loads of experience. They aren’t just some lady with a stethoscope : ) If you feel that you want additional support, look for a Doula (a trained birth supporter/assistant) that makes you feel safe and cared for. A Doula can make a big difference in the birth experience.
How close are you to a hospital or medical center?
If you know that emergency transport is available, and that you can be in the hands of an MD really quickly, that may help you feel safer. If you live out in the boonies, you may decide that the risk of not making it to the hospital is too great, and will opt for the hospital birth. We’ve known several women who were transported to the hospital for various reasons during birth, and some ended with a natural vaginal birth, and the others had a C-section. Knowing that you have the option of transport can ease your mind (or your husband’s).
Have you made a birth plan yet?
A birth plan lists the things you want to have happen, as well as the things you want to avoid during labor. It can be as detailed as you want it, and will help to communicate your wishes to caregivers whether you give birth at home or not. Navelgazing Midwife (worth the visit just for the awesome photo!)has an example, as does
Make the decision that feels right for you and your family.
Having laid all of that out, I must say that where and how you give birth is up to you and your partner. If you feel safest at home, then you should consider that option. If you feel safest in the hospital, then by all means, plan for that. If you are on the fence (perhaps it’s your first birth), then going to a birth center might be best for you. No matter what path you choose, remember that birth is a sacred experience, and you and your partner need to be in agreement in order to support each other during it.
Not everyone makes birth a public experience, but if you’re feeling especially spunky during birth, you can Twitter about it, as Erykah Badu did with her homebirth.
What do you have to lose?
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