Home births are more common and popular in different areas of the United States. Honestly, my knowledge of home births is very limited. I am only witness to the ones that don’t go as planned, the ones who show up to the hospital when someone is in distress and action has to be taken quickly to prevent additional harm to mother or baby. As a labor and delivery nurse, it is these situations that send a shiver down my back and makes an uneasy feeling settle in the pit of my stomach. I know that there are many home birth stories out there that have a happy ending. The majority of them probably do. What I do know, having been the nurse who had to act quickly to save a mother or a baby who showed up to the hospital when things at home unexpectedly went south, is that no one wants to deliver a dead baby, or a baby whose brain has been affected because of a lack of intervention, or a delay in appropriate care. Everyone wants a happy, healthy mom and baby.
I think there are probably a lot of women who are good candidates to have one of those happy, healthy home births. I just know I’m not one of them. I was overweight when I got pregnant, I counted every carb that went into my mouth and still ended up gestational diabetic, and then had severe preeclampsia at 35 weeks. Working in labor and delivery, I see how complicated pregnancy and birth has become. I don’t believe the birthing process is complicated, I think the birthing process remains so sweetly simple. But now, women have so many other problems complicating their pregnancy. So many women are overweight, and many women don’t know how this affects their pregnancy and delivery. We see more diabetics, more women with high blood pressure, and more placental abnormalities. There are a lot of other issues that can come up during a pregnancy, and these issues make it dangerous to deliver at home.
Even if you remain completely healthy throughout your pregnancy, the baby might not “come down” because of a short umbilical cord, or a cord that’s wrapped too tightly around its neck or body. The baby could be in a weird position (we call this acynclitic), making it difficult (or impossible) to deliver vaginally. The baby could get trapped (this is called a shoulder dystocia), where the head is delivered and the shoulders are stuck, and then every minute matters to prevent permanent brain damage. And sometimes everyone is surprised with a baby who just does not want to breathe. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a baby who was born who unknowingly had a heart defect, making it difficult for them to breathe on their own. Sometimes babies have trouble maintaining their sugar levels, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for babies, this messes up everything. And many times, signs of distress are so subtle. All of these things aren’t extremely common, but they do happen. And if there is no intervention, or that intervention is delayed, it could have devastating consequences for everyone. These things could happen to anyone, regardless of how healthy you are, or how many times you have previously delivered a baby vaginally. As a mother, I wouldn’t want to know that a delay in care caused harm to my baby, harm that could have life-long consequences. I don’t want to be responsible for that.
I love the idea of birthing at home. I think it would be so great to be surrounded by familiar things, and not worry about strangers being a part of a process that is so beautiful. I think it would be so incredibly special to experience this with my family. It makes me a little sad knowing that I will never be able to even consider this as an option, because my previous history makes me incredibly high risk. As a labor and delivery nurse, as someone who truly loves the people I take care of, the only thing I can do is focus on how I can change the birthing experience of the people who do decide to have a hospital delivery.
Women should be empowered to make their own decisions, and if a home birth is the right option for you, then I genuinely hope you have the happy, healthy delivery you expect. If you choose to have a hospital birth, know that it can still be special. You can still be surrounded by the people that you love. You still have rights. I want every single woman who decides to deliver in a hospital to know that it remains your body. None of us can do anything to you without your permission. That is a fear that I think drives many women to choose to have a home birth. Talk to different physicians or midwives. Talk to doulas. Talk to other women in your area and find the right option for you. A home birth might be an option for many women out there. But for many more women, it shouldn’t even be considered, and I don’t want any woman out there to let fear of a hospital propel a choice that could completely change your life or the life of your baby.
I am not writing this article to convince a woman to deliver at one place over the other. I want every woman who reads this to make the best decision for themselves and their family. To any woman out there that decides to have a home birth, I hope you have the absolute best experience possible. After all, if you get that, what a wonderful, magical experience that must be! And to any woman who decides to have a hospital birth, I hope you also have an incredible experience. Remember that you have control over what that experience looks like.
Make educated decisions. Remember your rights. As an obstetrical nurse, my ultimate goal is a healthy mother and a healthy baby. Choose what’s best for you, your family, and your pregnancy. And above all, may every single one of you have a healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery 🙂 Regardless of where you decide to have your baby, what a beautiful process we get to be a part of 🙂
Until my next delivery ❤
- Healthy Mom & Baby
- New York Times – When Pregnancy is Low Risk, Home Birth is a Safe Choice
- March of Dimes – Being Overweight During Pregnancy
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – Increased Risks to Mother and Baby from Obesity
- March of Dimes – Gestational Diabetes
- Parents.com – What You Need to Know about Gestational Diabetes
- March of Dimes – High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy