How can I have a safe home birth?

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Answered by: Charity, An Expert in the Pregnancy: Labor and Birth Category
Being the mother of twelve children (seven of which were born at home directly into their daddy’s hands), a labor doula for over sixteen years, a certified childbirth educator for eight years, and a midwife’s assistant for five years, I feel I have a lot to contribute on the subject of safe home birth. Giving birth at home can be one of the most amazing things a woman will ever do, and I believe the vast majority of women are physically capable of having a safe and satisfying home birth, if they would just have an open mind to the possibilities.

One of the very first things you must do if you wish to have a safe home birth (that is, after you have found out a little bundle of joy is on the way) is to surround yourself with other mothers/couples who have had successful home births and listen to their birthing stories. Talking to those who have already been there, getting positive stories of the process and sensing the joy that these parents found really helps to boost one’s self-confidence. Avoid talking birthing options and stories with mothers who have had hospital experiences or who are outright against home birth. Keeping your thoughts positive and dwelling on the successful experiences helps to focus your energies where they should be.

Another thing you should do in preparation of a safe home birth is to read many good books on the subject. There are a number of really good books I could recommend, written specifically for those investigating home birth as an option, but for brevity, I will just list the two I like best here. One book is Polly’s Birth Book by midwife Polly Block, and the other is Special Delivery by childbirth educator Rahima Baldwin Dancy. Both of these books describe in great detail the process of normal labor and delivery, and explain how that interfering with this natural process often times causes unnatural deviations to occur, causing complications which, sadly, often result in a less than ideal outcome, up to, and including, cesarean delivery and sometimes even the death of the baby and/or mother (the latter is thankfully pretty rare in this day and age).

The next thing you should do in order to prepare for a safe home birth is to seek out a care provider who will honor your wishes to be as hands-off as possible. Many midwives are little more than “med-wives” or someone who fancies themselves to be an obstetrician in the home. This sort of care provider feels that medically managing your labor is their job and may have, and even try to use, every available piece of equipment designed for birth. In reality, the body was designed to give birth and it needs very little help to accomplish this task. Just look at any animal birthing in the wild, they do not have doctors or midwives managing every little detail of birth, yet nearly every time, there are no complications and the baby comes in its own time.

Choosing the care provider who will best suit your needs and desires may even result in your choosing to have no trained professional attend you at all, or what has become known as unassisted childbirth. This is what my husband and I chose. We had seven home births where the only provider of care was my husband and I. For most of these births, we did have a supportive friend or two present in case of a worst-case-scenario, where we might need help transporting to the hospital. We knew that the chances of that occurring were small, due to allowing my body to labor as naturally and intervention-free as possible, but we felt it was a good idea to have a plan that we could put into action should the need arise.

Another very important thing I would recommend in order to have a safe, and successful, home birth is to try to keep your plans as private as possible. Some people are so convinced that home birth is dangerous and that anyone planning to have one is dooming their baby to die, that they will stop at nothing to try to prevent your plans from going forward. Case in point is a man we knew while planning our first home birth. We had invited his wife to film the birth for us, but once my labor started, I just had this gut feeling that I should not call her. Labor went smoothly and the baby arrived safe and sound a few hours later.

However, later that day, I heard from a mutual friend that this man had told her that he was glad everything turned out so well because he had planned on calling 911 to request they send an ambulance to our house when the call came that I was in labor. I was really glad that I had followed my gut in not calling her. I can only imagine the stress I would have felt having an ambulance show up at my house and EMTs encouraging me to go to the hospital. Stress is one of many things that can cause a cascade of interventions and complications in labor. That incident really brought home to us the importance of keeping our plans as private as possible so as not to have any issues like this again.

I wish that more people would get back to birth as it was designed. I believe the birth industry is doing a great disservice to families by not being more supportive of it. Birth is a normal, natural process and was designed to work on its own with minimal, if any, interference from us.

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