I’ve been working on my homebirth ebook and audio package and have homebirth on my mind, so together with Maia (born at home in 2000) we came up with 12 things to love about homebirth. Enjoy!
1. Birth will be as gentle, safe and rewarding as possible for you and your baby
Although a gentle birth can happen anywhere, the chances of a natural, drug-free labour and birth are much, much greater at home.
For example, the 2002 Listening to Mothers survey found “virtually no natural childbirth” among the 1500-odd US mothers who responded to their detailed questionnaire. In contrast, in homebirth studies, at least 70% of mothers and babies enjoy a natural birth at home.
One reason why intervention is less often needed at home is that you feel private, safe and unobserved when in your own space. These are the basic requirements for birth in all mammals, and are associated with low levels of fight-or-flight hormones, giving an efficient and safe birth for you and your baby.
Conversely, when fight-or-flight hormone levels are high, labour will slow to some extent, and blood and oxygen will be diverted to the muscles, heart and lungs — those organs needed for fight or flight — and away from your uterus and baby. This may cause not only a prolonged labour, but can also compromise blood and oxygen supply to your baby, leading to ‘fetal distress’. Prolonged labour and fetal distress are the most common reasons for intervention in hospital births.
For more about the ‘ecstatic hormones’ of labour and birth, and how they optimize ease, pleasure and safety in labour and birth, please sign-up on right hand side for my Ecstatic Birth ebook and Undisturbed Birth chapter in Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering
And by the way, planning a homebirth, even if you end up birthing in hospital, also substantially reduces your chances of unnecessary intervention.
2. Your caregivers will intervene as little as possible
First, most homebirth attendants are very comfortable with a low-technology approach, and tend to use interventions very sparingly.
Second, although your carer will bring all that is needed for emergencies, there just isn’t all that technical equipment and drugs itching to be used at home, and the long trek to hospital adds an even more cautious approach to intervention.
In my experience as a family physician (GP), I have noticed that I am more respectful of people’s personal space, and do less to them, in their own home compared to in my clinic.. As I discuss further in my homebirth audio, studies have found that women under the care of the exactly the same midwives at home and in hospital will still get more interventions (and no better outcome) in hospital.
3. Your family can be present and involved
One of the many joys of homebirth is that birth can be a family event. While I don’t encourage having a tribe of onlookers, I would recommend that you consider having your baby’s siblings present, and the wider family such as expectant grandparents can also be more involved.
However, I would always recommend a flexible approach to this: arrange helpers for your other children, so that they (and you) can decide at the time if they want to be in the birth room. Similarly, while it may be generous to invite your own parents, siblings, and/or friends, I suggest that you make sure you also allow yourself the space for a private birth, if that is what your instincts tell you at the time,. I suggest that you let all of your potential birth supporters know that that you might not call them in labour.
A midwives’ rule of thumb: each extra person present at birth adds another hour to your labour.
4. Your husband or partner will love it
I know that many men are worried about the idea of homebirth. They want the best and safest birth for their woman and baby, and can’t see how homebirth can be safe, without all those obstetrical tools at hand.
(I highly recommend that you give them my Ecstatic Birth ebook (please sign-up on right hand side) to read, which logically and scientifically describes the benefits of natural birth.)
But once they are reassured that homebirth is safe, and especially after they have experienced homebirth themselves, they can become the biggest advocates.
In contrast with hospital birth, men will feel comfortable at home- they will be on their own territory, and can set the rules, They will not be caught between the medical staff, telling them what they think is safe, and what they know that their partner wants for labour and birth, as can happen in hospital. This is not a recipe for good relationships after birth especially if the birth involves major intervention. (For a powerful exploration of this, see the film The Other Side of the Glass )www.theothersideoftheglass
At home, all team members – parents, family, carers and supporters — are on the same page, and decisions are generally made by all concerned. And as the birthing mother gets the full ecstasy of birth, so will the new father, creating awe and respect for his partner and an unbreakable bond with mother, baby and family.
See www.fatherstobe.org for more resources and reassurance for expectant fathers.
5. More babies prefer homebirth…
…as my friend and Trust Birth founder Carla Hartley puts it.
If we consider the baby’s experience of birth, we would have to vote for homebirth. At home, babies are individuals, treated with respect and love. This may happen in hospital, or you may end up with a carer (doctor, nurse or midwife) who hasn’t considered that the baby’s experience is valid or important.
In fact, in most photos or video of hospital birth, everyone is happy except the baby, who is crying and distressed, and there is often moderate to extreme harshness in the treatment of newborns, including spanking, harsh rubbing, and unnecessary, rough suctioning.
From the baby’s perspective – and Mother Nature’s — the only place for a newborn to be is skin-to-skin on the mother’s body, without any separation. (For more about the effects of newborn separation, see Chapter 6, Undisturbed Birth, in Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering)
If this is an odd perspective to you, I encourage you to ask some children between 3 and 7 or so what they remember about their own births- the answers may surprise you.
6. You and your baby are safe from other people’s germs
Your baby is basically germ-free in the womb, and will be ‘colonized’ with bacteria from the environment, including the people around, at birth and in the early days. In particular, your baby’s gut and skin will be colonized, ideally with your own healthy bacteria.
One of the best gifts you can give your baby is a healthy gut flora through contact with your body via natural birth, skin-to-skin contact after birth, and breastfeeding. Hospital environments, with antiseptic techniques, unfamiliar people, and hospital-acquired infections requiring antibiotics, (which further compromise gut flora for mothers and babies) have been shown to radically change the gut flora of newborns. Long-term effects could include allergy, obesity and diabetes. See the discussion about antibiotics for Group B Strep in my book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering for more details.
Also worrying is the rise in “superbugs” in recent years: common bacteria that develop resistance to most, and in some cases all, currently-used antibiotics. These bacteria such as MRSA proliferate in hospitals, as well as in the community, and outbreaks in nurseries have seriously affected healthy newborns.
This is another good reason to keep your baby close to you after birth, and not passed around to friends or relatives, whether you are in home or hospital.
7. You don’t have to go anywhere in labour and birth
If you have given birth in hospital, you will know that one of the worst experiences is attempting to get your labouring body into a car, and then trying to find a comfortable position for that endless drive (even if it’s only 5 minutes!) This tends to make husbands, partners and friends nervous too: no-one wants to have a baby by the side of the road.
And labour often slows when you arrive in hospital because your fight-or-flight hormones rise in an unfamiliar setting, as above. How much easier and kinder it is to your body, your baby and your family to stay at home. And if labour slows; well, you can just snuggle up in your own bed.
8. You don’t have to go anywhere after labour and birth
After giving birth, many animal mothers settle into a nest with their newborns, and you will probably find that your urge to ‘nest’ is also strong. When you have given birth at home, you can settle into your own familiar and comfortable surroundings, with your own smells and tastes, your own bed and bathroom, your own food and your own chosen companions.
The lack of hurry immediately after birth, and the ongoing ease of skin-to-skin contact with your baby may also help to prevent bleeding after birth, which some studies have found to be less common following homebirth. (See chapter 8, Leaving Well Enough Alone inGentle Birth, Gentle Mothering for more about bleeding after birth.)
Equally delightfully, you will know where you gave birth and, as you integrate your experience, you will be able to visit this ‘sacred site’ in the days, months and years after your baby’s birth. Your growing child will also know where they first came into the world.
9. It’s the best start to breastfeeding
Because home-born babies have not been exposed to drugs and major procedures, they will be born wide-eyed and fully alert. In this state, a newborn can crawl up the mother’s body, find her nipple, and begin to breastfeed, without any outside assistance. (As midwife exaordinare and neonatal resuscitation teacher Karen Strange says, “Birth is designed to work, even if there is nobody else around.”)
Similarly, you will be clear and alert after a natural birth, ready to interact with your baby and hormonally primed to fall in love, even if your labour was long and tiring, This is because of the effects of your ecstatic hormones, especially the surge of adrenaline-noradrenaline (epinephrine-norepinephrine) that occurs at the end of a natural labour and lasts for 15 to 20 minutes after birth.
For your baby, breastfeeding is the best start to life outside the womb. As I describe in Chapter 12 in Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, breastfeeding gives lifelong benefits to health and wellbeing for both mother and baby, including reduced risks of breast cancer, diabetes, obesity and allergies.
10. The ecstasy can last a lifetime!
Women giving birth at home enjoy the fullest expression of their ecstatic hormones which, as described in more detail in my Ecstatic Birth ebook (please sign-up on right hand side), make birth as easy, pleasurable and safe as possible for mother and baby. These ecstatic hormones peak in the hour following birth, imprinting love, pleasure excitement and reward. The hormonal peaks alter the new mother’s brain, switching on the ‘maternal circuit’ and enhancing instinctive mothering behaviours in all mammals.
This is Mother Nature’s blueprint for mother and baby, designed to ensure liberal and ongoing rewards for both through mother-baby contact and breastfeeding. According to brain research, more of a new mother’s reward centers are activated when she hears her baby’s voice if she has experienced a natural birth, compared with cesarean.
And according to research by Penny Simkin, mothers will remember their baby’s birth in incredibly accurate details over many years. So your baby’s birth will truly last a lifetime
Maia (11) would like to add:
11. There are no needles put into the baby,
Sometimes they do this in hospital to make sure the baby is healthy but I know that my baby is healthy. Needles make me feel scared and what if the baby gets scared just like me?
12. In hospital, they might take the baby away..
…when you first have it and you don’t get to see your baby straight away. I wouldn’t like it if that were my baby.