Home birth was the last thing on my radar at the beginning of my pregnancy — my prenatal care was through a hospital birthing center. But when we moved to another state for my husband's new job I was 37 weeks pregnant and none of the birthing centers or hospitals within an hour of our new home would take me so late in pregnancy. In tears and desperation, I Google searched "home birth midwives." Finally, I found a practice that would take my case! Five days after moving, our daughter was born at home. Home births are now rising in popularity but still remain shrouded in misconception. Can you guess the most common misconceptions people have? Here are six.
The below information is not medical advice. Please always consult your doctor.
Only Crunchy Mamas Give Birth at Home
One of the beautiful things about parenthood is our freedom to tailor parenting to the needs of our children. Too often we segregate certain parenting styles into boxes: attachment parenting, co-sleeping, and home birth in the natural box; BabyWise and sleep training in a different box, and so on. But home birth isn't just for crunchy mamas! There are countless benefits to birthing naturally and at home – benefits that go beyond the bounds of specific child rearing methods.
My daughter was sleep trained and formula fed from 4 months old on. Those two choices hardly qualified me for the natural label, but I loved my home birth and plan to have several more. You don’t have to fit a mold to have a home birth, just like you don’t need to fit a mold to be a good mom!
Home Births Are Messy
Many parents are turned off by home birthing because it sounds messy – but it doesn’t have to be! For the majority of labor, there is very little danger of any damage to your home. In second stage labor – when pushing can cause the mother’s water to break if it hasn’t already – many women either give birth in a tub (water birth) or over chux pads, which are very large, disposable diaper-like squares to protect carpet and bedding. The cleanup is minimal, and your midwives will take care of the mess.
Renters Can't Birth at Home
If you’re renting, home birth might sound impossible. Not so! Because home birth is easy to clean up, there is little danger of losing a security deposit if you have the proper materials on hand (your midwife should give you a list). If you plan on having a water birth, first be sure your tub is big enough. If you plan on renting an AquaDoula (large tub with high sides designed for laboring in water), be sure you have a means of draining the tub and that the floor will support its weight.
My husband and I had been renting our duplex only five days when Adeline made her debut – and our landlord lived in the other half of the house! We initially approached this as a don’t ask, don’t tell situation, only asking our landlord’s permission after she brought it up. If you wish to have the home birth option written into the lease, initiate the conversation from the beginning or ask for an adjustment to your contract.
Home Birthing is Dangerous
Some women have high-risk pregnancies, and in these situations, a home birth may be unadvisable. But for most healthy women with normal pregnancies, home birth is an excellent way to avoid unnecessary interventions in the birth experience. Every home birth midwife should have a back-up hospital in case of emergencies. Many also carry emergency medicines in the event of a delayed ambulance.
The idea that home birth is dangerous is rooted in fear, and fear (with its resulting tension) is the enemy of a natural birth. With the appropriate backup options in place, home birth is a completely safe and secure method for laboring mothers. For those who still have doubts, a thorough birth education will grant a solid understanding of just how women’s bodies are prepared for delivery! The Bradley Method birthing classes are an excellent resource for first-time parents or first time home birthers.
It's Too Expensive to Birth at Home
Because babies born at home are generally delivered by a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) as opposed to a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), insurance companies may attempt to decline coverage of prenatal and delivery costs. This scares some would-be home birth parents away. However, it is possible to get insurance to cover a home birth, particularly if you start the conversation as soon as you know you're pregnant. Numbers are persuasive. Make your insurance company aware that the average cost of prenatal care and a hospital birth is almost $9,000 in the United States, as opposed to an average of $2-4,000 with a CPM. And the good news? Even when insurance refuses to cover a home birth, many couples pay little more than they would have paid to meet their deductible. The benefits of personal attention, familiar environment, and a supportive birth atmosphere make home birth worth the small extra cost (if any).
Birthing at Home Requires a High Pain Tolerance
Before I had my daughter, I thought women who delivered their babies at home were either crazy or super strong. As someone who can barely tolerate a headache, getting through labor seemed nearly impossible! But the more I learned about the birth process, my body, and the benefits of natural/home birth, the more confident I became.Labor doesn’t require a high pain tolerance so much as the ability to work with your body to deliver the baby. This means relaxing with the contractions, not fighting against them. My own birth was fast and intense, but by thinking of each contraction as a muscle workout (after all, your uterus is a muscle!), I was able to get through them one at a time.
The necessity of relaxation makes home birth an excellent choice for the laboring mother. We are most comfortable in our own homes, surrounded by the familiar and comforting things of daily life. Being able to relax in a calming environment, both during and after labor, is a wonderful way to experience birth.
As you consider your options for birth, don’t let these common misconceptions warp your view of birthing at home! But keep in mind that all birth is beautiful, no matter how a baby comes into the world. There is no wrong way for new life to be born.
Phylicia Masonheimer is a writer, homeschool guidance counselor, and podcast host. She teaches women how to live intentionally in singleness, marriage, and motherhood. Connect with her at Phyliciadelta.com.