This post was originally published by The Stir.
Whenever I’d tell someone I was having a home birth, their reaction would inevitably fall into one of three buckets:
- “YAY! I wish I’d done that.” (Or, “I have done that.”)
- “How? What? Why?” A million questions.
- “Are you crazy? What if something bad happens?”
I understand the spectrum of responses because I’ve been there and there and there. Before I considered having a home birth, I thought it was a crazy idea for crazy people. Then I started learning more and became incredibly curious. And then finally, I had a home birth and now I want everyone else to have one too.
To get from three to one, I learned a lot and corrected a lot of my own misconceptions. Here’s what I originally thought, then what I learned about home birth:
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1. Home birth is risky for mom and baby.
Study after study have shown that a home birth is as safe (or safer) than a hospital birth for healthy women, with low-risk pregnancies, using a certified professional midwife.
2. Home birth is messy.
Actually, birth is messy whether it happens at home or in a hospital. But, nurses, midwives, and doulas all know how to deal with the mess and whether you’re at home or in a hospital, chances are you’ll never see most of it. At my home birth, the midwife and doula kept things clean as we went and took a garbage bag with them when they left, leaving no signs behind to indicate that a birth had just taken place in our apartment.
3. If there’s an emergency, you’re screwed.
Most births go smoothly and mother and baby are fine. But, sometimes bad things do happen, no matter where you’re giving birth. Midwives are medical professionals who have been trained to deal with emergencies. My midwife came to my birth with an oxygen tank, drugs, and a doppler, not a bag of crystals and some herbs. We had a plan in place in case I needed to be transferred to the hospital. If I’d had meconium in my amniotic fluid, elevated blood pressure, or any other indicators of something going wrong, we would have transferred to the hospital immediately to be safe.
I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage, a dangerous complication, at my birth and the midwife acted quickly and professionally to stabilize me, then monitor me. It was scary for sure, but the experience showed me firsthand the extent of my midwife’s emergency training.
4. Only hippies have home births.
I don’t like granola, don’t wear Birkenstocks, and don’t own anything tie-dyed. And amazingly, I was still allowed to have a home birth. Joking aside, home births are growing in popularity with a new crowd. I credit Ricki Lake’s documentary, The Business of Being Born, with opening me up to the idea of home birth and making me realize it was something I could and should consider.
5. Insurance won’t cover a home birth.
My insurance fully covered the home birth and all my prenatal care (my midwife did home visits – bonus!). All it took was a letter explaining that there were no home birth midwives in my plan and my insurance company was forced to cover my midwife as if she were part of the plan, per New York state law. Every state and every insurer are different, but it’s worth looking into if you’re interested in a home birth – you might be happily surprised.