So you’re interested in having a home birth, but not sure if it’s a good idea since you haven’t had a baby before? Trying to decide if you’re crazy, dumb, or doing the right thing?
How do you decide?
First of all, you’re courageous to ask questions and seek out answers! You could have just signed up with the local ob group at your closest hospital, not knowing anything about them. But you are brave, you educate yourself about your options.
Here’s some things to keep in mind as you decide what’s best for you and your family:
-Remember you Remember
Your birth story will be with you for the rest of your life (Simpkin, 1991)! Set yourself up for a good one. Think about where you feel safe and who you feel safe with. What things do you like? What makes you feel comfortable? How do you want to remember your experience?
Sometimes finances come into play when deciding who to use as a care provider. Keep the long term in mind as you decide who to hire. If you really want to have a home birth, but aren’t sure you want to spend the money on it, think, “What would I think of this decision I made 10 years from now?” You won’t regret spending money on the experience you want!
-Discover your overarching goal
Planning a home birth means you have a high chance of having a natural vaginal delivery and a low chance of having a cesarean. You have a low rate of interventions and a high rate of breastfeeding success. For a first time mom planning a home birth, compared to a mom who has had babies before, you have a higher chance of deciding to go in for pain relief or needing to go to the hospital for better monitoring or IV fluids. Research transfer rates for first time moms (or ask midwives). Compare cesarean rates for first time moms at local hospitals. Many hospitals have a first time mom cesarean rate close to 50%!!!
What’s your overarching goal? Is it breastfeeding success? A natural or vaginal delivery with as few interventions as possible? To give birth in a place you feel safe? Is it worth the risk to plan a home birth and know you may transfer to a hospital? Is it worth it to plan for a natural hospital delivery, and know you may have a much higher chance of having a cesarean? These are questions you can only answer for yourself, but keeping in mind you will remember it, and surrounding yourself with positive people will help guide you.
-Don’t be Afraid to Change Plans
The process of pregnancy, birth, and parenting, is a journey. At the beginning of your pregnancy you may want your best friends, mom, husband, and doula there. As things get closer to your due date, you may realize you just want it to be your partner and doula. It’s okay to change plans last minute! It’s better to switch care providers at the end than to stay with one who is going to push unnecessary interventions upon you.
When women get close to giving birth, they enter a deeply primal state. They crave darkness, warmth, quiet, and a place of safety. These are necessary for the cascade of hormones that promote physiological birth. They are harder to create in certain environments. At the end of pregnancy and in labor, women become instinctual. Listen to that instinct.
-Pursue Positive People
My biggest piece of advice to first time parents who want to have a natural birth is to surround yourself with positive birth stories. Women who come from families where natural birth is the norm tend to have straightforward natural births. Why? Because they’ve been thinking about birth as normal their entire lives. Some of us have to work hard during pregnancy to undo all the subtle messages we’ve been told-that our bodies don’t work well or we just aren’t strong enough.
“Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”, “Spiritual Midwifery”, “Everyday Birth Magazine”, and “Birth Without Fear” are some great resources for good stories. Find your friends and family who have had natural or positive births and listen to their stories. Go to a local ICAN meeting or find a local home birth support group. In Cincinnati we have both the Home Birth Circle group on Facebook and the Home Birth Collaborative (http://cincinnatihomebirthcollaborative.com/) . The Home Birth Collaborative holds monthly meetings where home birth families share experiences with potential home birthers.
Stay clear of naysayers. I’m talking about care providers too! If your care provider is speaking negatively to you about your ability to give birth, or says that you should be induced because your baby might be too big, run! “There’s such thing as induction police!”
Simkin, P (1991). Just another day in a woman’s life? Women’s long term perceptions of their
first birth, pt 1. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1764149