Benefits of a Home Birth
My first memory as a child was at the age of three when it was announced that my younger brother had just entered the world in the comfort of my mother’s bedroom. There was no yelling or screaming, no bursting in and out of doctors or nurses, just my parents, a close friend, and a midwife. My dad always recalls the day by saying, “Your mom was so relaxed, we had to wake her up to start pushing!” Relaxed? Is that even possible to say in regards to labor?
Later in life, I learned of birth stories from other friends and family, and I was perplexed by the wide range of experiences that women have during childbirth. Some had such traumatic stories that they couldn’t be shared without tears of frustration. All too often I would hear about women going into the hospital and being confronted with a host of terrorizing decisions and pressure to comply whether it was drugs, induction or even cesarean. One friend shared with me that upon admission to the hospital during her labor, she handed her birth plan to the doctor and he threw it aside - literally - and said to her and husband, “You won’t need that.” This mechanical-like treatment of women and babies, as if it was a “factory” line, was beginning to cause a very deep pain in my heart. Yes, in my circle of friends there were stories from mothers who were satisfied with their hospital experience. But, for every mother satisfied with their hospital birth there seemed to be a staggering volume of unsatisfied mothers that exceeded them. Also, regardless of personal satisfaction of the hospital experience, almost every hospital birth story I was told used some intervention during the labor or delivery.
So needless to say when we were pregnant for the first time, I went on a mission… a mission to understand this paradox. If hospitals were the best and safest place to give birth… why the tears? why the disappointment? And why all the necessary interventions to “assist” the delivery?
Over the course of my pregnancy, Vaughn and I spent as much time as we could on research and childbirth education as we prepared for our baby to arrive. I read multiple sources of literature (my favorite being the 'Guide to Childbirth' by Ina May Gaskin), and as we went deeper, we came to a surprising discovery, the research and statistics supported home birth in the U.S. as a safer option for both mother and baby. It revealed less intervention and lower rates of infant mortality at home versus a hospital.
We learned of the absurdly high rates of induction in hospitals and that often the drugs used to do it were not-FDA approved, causing a host of complications for mother and baby. We recognized what the medical system had to offer was only in the rare occurrence of a high-risk pregnancy. Unfortunately, healthy women were experiencing more problems through these efforts to “assist” the delivery; which, in many cases, hindered the natural birth process. It was shocking to me. We had initially chosen home birth out of a heart longing to experience something natural; now having done the research, our hearts and minds were in total agreement.
To learn more about the risks associated with hospitals births, please read our blog 'Why We Chose a Home birth.' In the midst of learning about the dangers of hospital births, we were compelled to find out the benefits of home birth. There are so many benefits to having a baby in the comfort of your home. Here are just a few of my favorite:
1. Access to all my comforts.
This is probably the most obvious of the benefits of a home birth. At home, you are in complete control of what you can eat and drink; you can change your clothes if something isn’t working or decide they are not working at all; you can choose to shower or bathe; you can rest on the couch or your comfortable bed. After my home birth, the team cleaned my room, started any laundry related to the birth and served me a meal from my favorite foods I had prepared ahead of time in my refrigerator. I honestly felt like a queen as we cuddled with our newborn baby.
2. As mobile as I want to be.
Often in the hospital, there is pressure to use a fetal monitoring system. Depending on the type of system used, it can hinder a mother’s ability to walk, turn and position herself for the oncoming contractions. At home, the monitoring system is usually done intermittently through a handheld Doppler Fetal Monitor. This type of monitoring is simple, quick and has no impact on the mother’s choice for positioning or desire to move.
3. A familiar germ environment.
It is no secret super-bugs are rampant in the hospital setting. Unfortunately, having a baby in a hospital potentially exposes you and your baby to many germs neither of you have developed a resistance against. This is unlike the home where you live and breathe and although not “sterile” (which is a good thing), it provides a very safe place to bring your baby into this world and slowly begin the process of building their immunity with the help of mother’s milk and vaginal flora.
4. The hormonal symphony goes undisturbed.
There is an incredible hormonal process that evolves leading up to the birth. In short, the hormones of oxytocin and a few others are secreted by a part of the brain, communicating to the uterus via the bloodstream to begin contractions. This is not under voluntary control, but part of the subconscious brain that controls other involuntary body functions. For example, you breathe and digest food, but you don’t necessarily tell your body to do it. This symphony of hormones flowing through the body is what governs labor, and if interrupted the labor can stall and fail to progress. The primary competing hormone that can cause this sudden stall is adrenalin. Unfortunately, a rise in adrenalin can be difficult to avoid during a quick transition from home to the hospital. By the time the mother arrives at the hospital the adrenalin rush from packing up, getting into the car and admission could be just enough to stall labor and place the mother under medical pressure for induction. The induction clock starts ticking upon admission, and if things don’t start picking up, the pressure mounts for intervention. Unfortunately for the mother, there is no “voluntary” button to kick-start the process and often it is more a matter of time, space and relaxation for the mind and body to regroup and begin the process again. In a home birth there is no need for rushing, no transition to accomplish, just the rhythms of your body and the goal of meeting your baby.
5. Compliance with the “Sphincter Law.”
The “Sphincter Law” (coined by Ina May Gaskins) is her clever way of referring to the body’s ability to open a sphincter (of all kinds) in a place of public viewing. It is very true that many of our natural instincts are governed by a part of our “involuntary” mind in a very powerful way. Meaning… there are times when no matter what we tell ourselves, our body says and does something different. For example, have you ever been nervous and afraid and just told yourself to stop being nervous and afraid? Did it work? Have you ever had to pee or poop in a strange or unfamiliar place and couldn’t seem to perform the task? Add the dimension of someone watching you in that foreign place and imagine how successful you might be? If given the opportunity to walk in your front door with that same need to relieve yourself, you probably wouldn’t make it to the toilet fast enough.
Could this play into the reason so many women stall in labor or do not progress with dilation upon admission to a hospital full of bright lights, beeping machines, and unfamiliar faces? Add into this the constant checking of your dilation with the understanding that your body needs to perform “sphincter opening” on demand. There is a reason that pregnant animals in nature will not give birth when they feel cornered or threatened. I am unashamedly someone who cannot poop on a plane, in a restaurant or anywhere for that matter other than my personal toilet. The sphincter law applied to me, and for my birth experience, I wanted nothing in the way of my sphincter (cervix) opening up. A home birth is a protected environment, and only those you intimately trust are invited into the experience. It is a wonderful way to assist the natural hormone progression of labor and optimize your chances with the “sphincter law.”
Choosing a home birth is an important decision and should always take into consideration the health and needs of the mother and child. For our family the choice was clear, and through our research and experience, we were able to redefine what most people consider safe. We are eternally grateful for each and every birth and thank God that the comfort of our home has continued to be the safest place to welcome our children into the world. It is without hesitation that we invite mother’s to learn more about the joys and benefits of what home birth can offer for a beautiful birth experience. Learn more on our Pregnancy & Childbirth resource page and sign-up for our Pregnancy email list.