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Are you planning for a natural birth? Of course, you want what’s best for your baby, but there are so many options to consider.
The more you learn, the more you may realize how much a standard hospital birth strays away from the idea of “natural” that you were going for.
When I became pregnant with our first baby over a decade ago, we actually started with a traditional OB and planned on having a hospital birth.
Without knowing much of anything, the whole idea of a home birth just seemed a little too risky when it came to having my first baby.
The more we learned through our childbirth education course and in the process of researching for and creating our birth plan with our doula, the more a home birth made sense.
At some 20+ weeks into my pregnancy, we started interviewing midwives, and I ended up hiring one and giving birth to our first baby at 37 weeks, safely, and comfortably at home. I am thankful we decided to work with a home birth midwife for that pregnancy along with the six more that have followed over the past ten years.
These are the 5 reasons that made us decide that home birth is the best way to have a natural birth:
Better and More Personalized Care
One of the main differences we saw right away in working with a midwife vs. an OB was the superior care provided by our midwife. When we made the switch, our midwife noticed some red flags regarding my pregnancy that could have easily turned it into a high risk situation.
I was swollen all over – my ankles about twice their normal size, which indicated a risk of pre-eclampsia to her. I was instructed to make some pretty strict adjustments in my diet and add in some supplements to ensure I was getting enough protein. (see The Dr. Brewer Pregnancy Diet) She monitored my urine samples and blood pressure closely and ordered additional blood work on a weekly basis to make sure that we were making progress.
At one point, things got worse, and I had to go on a strict diet of only chicken and peanut butter to turn things around. Thankfully, it worked, and fortunately, my midwife had the discernment to make me do something about it.
Since we were unsure if home birth was even going to be an option, I stuck with seeing my OB as well. When I expressed my concern about the swelling, they recommended wearing compression-hose to help with the swelling in my legs. They noted that it was a normal part of pregnancy and that I should not be worried about it.
Additional ways that working with a midwife provides better and more personalized care:
- Most midwives will approach most pregnancy issues proactively and naturally in efforts to try to prevent things from happening in the first place. Many traditional doctors will reactively respond to issues with what they have been taught to use (surgical and/or pharmaceutical intervention).
- The personal attention you will receive from a midwife is far greater than that you will see from an OB. Most midwives will spend a solid hour with you at each appointment. My OB appointments lasted about thirty minutes and 90% of that time was spent waiting or with the nurse.
- When it comes time to giving birth, unless extreme circumstances force your midwife to rely on a backup, she will be the one to attend your birth, stick around after, and come back for your post-natal visits. No need to deal with the revolving nurse schedules, shift changes, or gambling on what doctor will be on-call when you go into labor.
- The education provided by a midwife is far superior. She can answer questions and walk you through concepts most likely never addressed by a traditional OB such as nutrition during pregnancy, proper postpartum care, optimal fetal positioning, placenta encapsulation, and all the many choices you have when it comes to having a baby.
No Need to “Fight” For Your Choices
If you are choosing to have a natural birth, you will most likely make some other choices that tip towards the natural side of the scale as well.
We spent a lot of time researching options and came up with a birth plan that explained everything we wanted. It was two full pages long, 10pt font and single-spaced.
We went over the details with our doula, and she brought it to our attention that although it was possible to make this happen in a hospital, we might spend the entire labor and birth process feeling “on guard” and have to “fight” to follow our birth plan.
This idea of not being able to fully relax during my labor because those in the room with me were not truly my advocates who wanted what we wanted for our birth and baby really bothered me. This is what made us decide to start looking for a midwife who we could trust and who had our best interest at heart through the entire process.
Some of the choices that you may need to fight for in the hospital include:
- Not being induced one week after your “due date”
- Letting labor take its natural course as long as there are not apparent issues
- No IV
- No excessive monitoring
- No epidural or other pain management
- The ability to provide your body with nourishment during labor
- Immediate skin to skin contact with baby
- Vernix to be rubbed into the skin rather than wiped off
- Delayed cord clamping
- To save the placenta to be encapsulated
- Declined or delayed vaccine schedule
- Declined eye prophylaxis
- Declined vitamin K injections
- No baths for baby in those first few days
- Co-sleeping with baby
This also includes a number of procedures that can be avoided during pregnancy:
- No glucose test (alternative done with blood sugar testing)
- No Group-B Strep test
- No unneeded ultrasounds
- No unnecessary vaginal exams
- No additional testing
Lower Risk and Best for Baby
If you take the time to research the risks and possible outcomes associated with some of the routine procedures performed at hospitals, you may quickly find that they don’t make the most sense for you or your baby.
In addition to the choices noted above that often need to be fought for, or are not even an option in some hospitals, there are a number of other benefits to staying at home that keeps things lower risk and better for baby:
- Hospitals are full of sick people, staying home prevents the chance of you, baby, or the rest of your family picking up some nasty bug.
- Most hospitals still use toxic chemicals to clean and disinfect – if you use clean, non-toxic products at home, you don’t have to worry about your newest member of the family being exposed to harsh chemicals.
- There is no risk of baby getting separated from mom at home. You have complete control of who enters your room and can make sure that you get that one-on-one bonding time that is so crucial in those first days after birth.
- Your chances of surgical intervention are lower when you choose a home birth. Not that there is no chance of a transfer to the hospital in case of emergency, but your midwife will not be making routine decisions that often lead to unnecessary intervention.
- Circumstances such as “failure to progress” or “overdue” are managed closely rather than throwing you into a category and forcing intervention.
More Options to Labor Naturally and Best for Mom
I have labored and given birth in almost every position imaginable. With some of my babies, it was the freedom to move in ways that I instinctively felt necessary (or my midwife instinctively felt necessary and pushed me to do) that allowed for a natural birth.
With my first pregnancy, my water broke around 4am, but I didn’t start having contractions until after 7pm. I understand that many hospitals will not allow a mom to go that long without inducing or other intervention. Once I started having contractions, our little girl was born about 3 hours later.
My second baby was posterior, which required me to alternate between a birth stool and walking around the room in a wide squat like a sumo wrestler in order to deliver him. After over two and a half hours of pushing and hard work, he was born sunny side up.
My third was 10 pounds 10 ounces and had his arm up. It took a variety of positions and eventually lying flat on my back at the direction of my midwife in order deliver him. This was another long two-plus hours of pushing, but he was also safely born at home with zero intervention.
My last three were born in a birth pool in a variety of positions. I believe that the ability to move into the position that feels right can help speed up and provide for exactly what the baby needs to be delivered smoothly.
In addition to position options, the ability to eat and drink during labor is also very beneficial – especially when labor goes a little longer! It’s hard work, and our body needs nutrients in order to maintain energy and keep performing until the end.
Certain foods (honey, for example) can be helpful in giving an extra boost of energy that can be necessary at certain times, as can liquids, proteins, and more.
When it comes to considering options for mom and baby, safety and care really should be the strongest factor to consider. The four previous reasons and the related safety and care are what led us to our choice of home birth vs. hospital birth.
This last reason is more “icing on the cake” than anything else. However, once you experience a home birth for yourself, I guarantee you will have a hard time not appreciating these factors.
- The option of having a water birth – three of my six have been born in the water. I did have a pool available that I labored in for all of them, but it just didn’t work out to give birth in it for the first three. In the future, I will have the rest of my babies in the water if at all possible!
- There is no need to travel during labor or try and guess when the right time is to head to the hospital.
- Staying at home provides a calm, comfortable, and low-stress environment. The calmer you can stay during labor, the easier things will be on you and on baby.
- You have full control over the environment – who you want to be there, the temperature, the lighting, the sounds, the smells, etc.
- If you already have children, there is no need to send them off somewhere while you go to the hospital. They can be in the room if you prefer, or just outside, but close by in the comfort of their own home and meet their sibling when you are ready.
Most of my babies tend to come first thing in the morning, which works out well because the kids can remain sleeping in their bed and then wake up to a new baby.
- As long as he is on board for having a home birth, being at home is going to also be most comfortable for hubby. He is in his surroundings where he has access to everything he needs and doesn’t have to worry about running home, leaving mom and baby, to grab all things forgotten.
- If you are worried at all about complications and not having access to doctors and equipment provided at the hospital, you can take comfort in the fact that as a general rule, labor complications happen slowly over time and provide many hints or red flags that midwives are trained to pick up on. A good midwife will use her experience and discernment to know if and when it may be necessary to transport to a hospital.
If you are looking for a natural option for your pregnancy and birth, consider hiring a midwife and choosing to have a home birth.
It can sound scary in the beginning, but as you learn more about this option, you may find that it ends up feeling like the safer choice when you examine all the factors.
Have you had a home birth experience that you would like to share? Or are you considering a home birth as a possibility and have any questions? Please let me know in the comments below.
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