Homebirth: Preventative Medicine

When I would tell people that I was planning a homebirth, the same question would inevitably come up: what if something happens? You better get yourself to the hospital!

What if, what if, what if… The fact of the matter is that all those “what if’s” are a lot less likely to happen in a low-risk, unmedicated, physiologic, well-supported, calm birth. I would like to argue that, in many cases, having a homebirth with qualified midwives and the proper precautions (or a hospital birth where they treat you pretty much like a homebirth midwife would) is good preventative medicine against all of those “what if’s.”

(Disclaimer: I am well aware that not all hospitals are pushy, and there are many that are making huge improvements in providing evidence-based care. However, there are far too many out there that are still sorely lacking. It is these hospitals against which I hold complaint, not every single one. Also, I am quite aware that there are sometimes medical reasons for some of the interventions I list below. I am not against them as a whole. I only protest those which are done routinely or for unacceptable reasons. If the mother or baby need them for a medically indicated reason, by all means, they should be used.) That being said…

What if your labor stalls? Labor is much less likely to stall if the mom is comfortable in her environment and has freedom of movement to keep her baby coming down.

Having no epidural also keeps labor moving (epidurals often slow labor down) and sudden drops in blood pressure are much less likely. Mom will also probably feel much better after the birth since she won’t have any residual side effects from the drugs.

No narcotics for pain? Well, I suppose that means the baby will have less of a chance of abnormal heart rates and will be more alert to nurse after the birth.

No Pitocin to speed labor up? Baby will be less likely to suffer fetal distress since he won’t be subjected to the long, hard contractions caused by Pit.

What if you need a cesarean? Without all of these interventions causing complications, your chance of needing a c-section are greatly lowered.

What if the baby goes into distress? A watchful midwife at home will most likely catch problems in the early stages since she is only focusing on one patient-probably earlier than one nurse monitoring several patients in the hospital.

The list goes on and on…

Am I off my rocker? Please let me know if I am. It’s just that I’ve heard so many people who are concerned about the possible complications at a homebirth, but they don’t realize that those complications are FAR less likely if you are having an umedicated, physiologic, and carefully watched birth.

I obviously know that there CAN still be complications in any birth setting, some of them quite serious. For me the determining questions were:

1) In which birth setting would this complicatication be more likely to occur in the first place?

2) Where would the complication be caught faster?

3) Could they do anything in the hospital to change this that they couldn’t at home?

I think the answers to these three questions will be different depending on your individual care provider and birth setting. There is only one hospital to birth at in my area, and after much research I determined that home was the safest place for me to have my baby. I will let my readers decide for themselves, however, which location is safer based on their individual maternity care options. Please share your experiences- I would love to hear them.

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