Mother&Baby's resident parenting expert Rachel Fitz-Desorgher is here to help with all your questions around pregnancy, babies and toddlers. This week she explains the advantages and disadvantages of choosing to give birth at home.
Question: "I’m trying to decide where I’d like to give birth to my first child, my midwife says I am low-risk so could consider a home birth. What are the main things I need to consider when making this decision?"
Answer: There are typically three questions that everyone will ask once you’ve announced that you’re pregnant: when are you due? Do you know what you’re having? and where are you having it? On this last point, you will quickly discover, everyone has their own opinion which they’re sure you need to hear but, as the place where you choose to birth can affect how you feel during labour, which in turn can have a big impact on how labour evolves, the choice really should be yours to make.
Despite what friends might tell you, midwives will reassure you that, if you are “low risk”, then a home birth really is a safe choice for you to consider and can bring real benefits.
Some women find hospitals scary - after all, we associate them with illness and tragedy rather than happiness and health. Fear can increase adrenaline which can slow labour down. Birth at home can often progress more smoothly because women are more relaxed.
Low-risk women planning a home birth with their first baby are statistically less likely to end up needing interventions such as forceps, ventouse or a Caesarean section than those planning to birth in an obstetric unit. This might be because, as well as keeping adrenaline lower, having one to one care from a midwife throughout your labour is more likely than in a busy labour ward.
Being at home can mean less disruption to the flow of labour, more freedom to move about, sleep, eat and focus and even reduces those little worries like who will walk the dog or feed the cat!
However, first-time mums are more likely to need transfer into hospital during labour but, because labour will have started naturally and interventions and drug- use will have been minimal at home, you might find the hours spent in hospital more manageable.
Babies of first-time mums planning a home birth are more likely to have a poor outcome (9 per 1000 as opposed to 5 per 1000 for babies born in an obstetric unit, alongside midwifery unit or freestanding midwifery unit) so you need to weigh this up alongside the benefits for you, and your emotional feelings about hospital versus home.
Ultimately in the UK, birth is generally very safe for low-risk women wherever they plan to have their baby, so make sure that you chat to your midwife about all available options and then choose the one that feels right for you.
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