Homebirth is safe and on the increase. You’ve probably all heard about the January report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows that homebirth increased 29% between 2004 and 2009. Homebirths increased 36% during this same time period among non-Hispanic white women: 1 in every 90 non-Hispanic white women has a homebirth, according to the CDC.
The percentage of homebirths was higher in the northwest than the southeast and more common among older married women with several children. Most homebirths are attended by midwives. Homebirths have a lower risk profile than hospital births suggesting that midwives are selecting low-risk women as candidates
The increase in homebirths is certainly fueled by the soaring rate of medical interventions at hospital births, particularly cesarean surgery, and the success of Ricki Lake’s film, The Business of Being Born. While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other naysayers challenge the safety of homebirth, in fact, its safety is well documented. Critics lump unplanned homebirths together with planned homebirths, but planned homebirths by low-risk, well nourished women who receive good prenatal care have always been found to be safe. In fact, birth is safe in any setting.
For most of us, it’s getting comfortable with the fact that birth is safe that is our most important preparation for birth. What helps us get comfortable with this fact is being around others who already believe it. If you are interested in a homebirth, find the homebirth community and get involved. Read the literature on the safety of homebirth and understand the politics. Find a birth attendant who you really like and in whom you can put your trust. Don’t expect yourself to know everything, but find someone who does.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR MIDWIFE
Here are some questions to ask your prospective birth attendant. Add your own.
What is your midwifery education and experience? What certifications or licenses do you have?
How long have you been practicing? How many births have you attended?
Who is your midwifery back-up? Who is your medical back-up?
How often will I see you during my pregnancy? How long will prenatal visits last?
How will my partner (and children) be involved in prenatal visits, during labor and at the birth?
Will you provide me with nutritional guidelines?
What is your philosophy about prenatal testing?
Do you offer childbirth education classes?
Will you suggest non-drug soothers, and different positions during labor?
How long after birth is the umbilical cord cut?
How long will you stay at my home after the birth?
What emergency equipment do you carry?
What back-up hospital do you use? Under what circumstances do you transport? What is your rate of hospital transport?
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE POSITIVE
In addition to asking the right questions, surround yourself with positive images of and stories about birth. Look at cross-cultural art that depicts the classic image of Madonna and Child. Read homebirth stories. You can find these stories in Ina May Gaskin’s books, Spiritual Midwifery, Birth Matters and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.
Watch The Business of Being Born.
Read the 2200 threads of birth stories in the Mothering community.
Read more birth stories on Mothering.com.
Birth is normal. Trust yourself. Trust the process. Trust the outcome.