Two-and-a-half years ago I had a home birth and it was the hardest thing I have ever done and also one of the most wonderful. Everything about birth feels so sacred and personal, so it only makes sense that many women feel led to choose a space to deliver their baby that is also sacred and personal to them: home.
If home birth is something you've been mulling over, here are a few questions you may want to ask before making your decision.
1. Do I love being at home?
This may seem completely obvious, but it is worth asking. If your home isn't a place that you find to be safe, comfortable and relaxing, then a home birth may not be your jam. If you have a housemate or a tiny apartment or loud neighbors then it may not be the best case scenario.
2. Are you close to a hospital?
If all goes according to plan you won't need to transfer to a hospital, but in the event that a transfer is necessary you'll want to be sure that you're able to get there quickly. If you live in a very rural area or in a place where the hospital is a bit of a drive and traffic is unpredictably terrible (i.e. Los Angeles.), you might want to take that into consideration.
3. Are you completely healthy?
Home births are best suited for those who are in great health. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, severe anemia and the like are probable for precluding you from home birth. This is definitely something to assess with a trusted medical health care professional.
4. Are you absolutely on board with having zero drugs available?
I'm not gonna lie, home birth is wonderful and beautiful and all of that, but it also hurts like a mother. You need to know that if you opt for a home birth the option of drugs will not be on the table... at all. I realize this should be obvious, but just in case you were under the impression that your midwife might come packing a just-in-case pain med I.V. drip or something, you'll be sorely disappointed. There is the possibility that she will have a hippie tincture or two, but let's be real, that'll probably barely take the edge off.
5. Can I afford a home birth?
The unfortunate facts are that many insurance companies still do not cover home birth or even out-of-hospital birthing centers. Both of my birthing center births were paid for out-of-pocket and my home birth ended up being partially covered by insurance, but we had to pay out-of-pocket first and were later reimbursed. The good news is that a home birth is often cheaper than a hospital birth even without insurance, but you'll probably need to have the funds up front (or at least by the time you deliver.) Midwives can't always afford to put you on a lengthy payment plan schedule like a big hospital can.
6. Do you have a comfortable space in my home to labor and give birth?
Where in your home will you give birth? Giving birth in your bedroom is ideal if possible so that your midwife and others can be out in the main part of the house, cooking, resting and prepping things without disrupting your laboring groove. You can definitely give birth in any part of your house though! Just take the time to consider if you will be able to feel comfortable in whatever space you choose.
Just as it is with any birth, there are risks and it's important to take them into consideration.
7. Are you willing to put in the work?
Home birth can be a great experience, but it definitely requires some extra leg work. There is quite a bit of prep. You'll have a list of birth supplies (extra towels, a tarp, fish net... don't ask) to purchase as well as postpartum supplies (think sexy mesh undies and jumbo pads.) You'll also want to consider additions to the space you'll labor in to make it comfy like blackout curtains (a godsend!)
8. Do you have a supportive and engaged birth partner?
I truly believe that one of the most important components for a successful birth (at home or otherwise) is having a birth partner who believes in you and your body's ability to birth. Someone who believes in the process and is there for you - prepared to do whatever is necessary. This doesn't have to be a husband or boyfriend. It can be a mom, sister, doula, whoever! But it must be someone who is supportive and who you trust completely.
9. Do you trust your midwife 100%?
This is so important. You need to be able to fully trust the person who is going to help you deliver your baby, because if things go sideways you want to know that you are in good hands with someone who has a lot of experience. Choose a midwife you can put your complete confidence in.
Hopefully your backup plan will be unwarranted, but it is always important to know all the details about what to do if an emergency arises. You won't want to be stuck figuring it out in the midst of potential chaos.
11. Have you considered all the risks?
Just as it is with any birth, there are risks and it's important to take them into consideration. As much as I believe that home birth is a wonderfully safe option for many women, I also am not naive to the potential dangers. It is a matter of calculated risk, but worth noting nonetheless.
12. Do you trust the process?
Aside from being surrounded by people that you trust implicitly, I think the next most important factor to a successful home birth is to truly trust the process. If you are not completely on board with your body and the belief that it is strong and capable of birthing a tiny human, then it's going to make birth a whole lot harder. Getting rid of the fear surrounding birth is paramount.