Home birth is childbirth that occurs outside a hospital or birthing center setting, usually in the home of the mother. Most home births are assisted by midwives, but some home births are physician assisted. Others have no medical assistance at all. This is known as free-birth or unassisted home birth. Home births can take place with or against the advice of a medical practioner.
In most Western countries, home birth declined over the 20th century, although there was some revival of the practice in 1970s. In The Netherlands, about 30% of all births occur at home, but this number is falling.
Types of home birth
Assisted home birth
For low-risk pregnancies, a number of studies have shown that planned, assisted homebirths are as safe as hospital births. The mother and baby are less likely to become ill (see antibiotic resistance or hospital-acquired infection ). There are fewer medical interventions, such as cesarean sections, forceps deliveries, episiotomies and administration of pain medication such as epidurals, all of which pose some risk to the lives and health of the mother and baby. However, in the case of emergencies such as cord prolapse, respiratory distress in the infant, or hemorrhaging of the mother, there is less access to life-saving equipment.
Unassisted home birth
There have been no formal studies on unassisted birth, however anecdotal evidence indicates that if the birthing mother is not interfered with, she will rarely have problems with a natural childbirth. A mother having an unassisted home birth can do so in the environment in which she feels most comfortable.
Many mothers choose a "couple's birth" where the birthing mother and her spouse or partner are the only ones present while she gives birth. Other children may be sleeping, or busy elsewhere in the house. Advocates of unassisted birth believe that couple's birth is an intimate extension of babymaking.
Proponents of home birth prefer the atmosphere of a home birth. The mother has more control over her surroundings, and is almost always permitted to eat and move around – activities which are often prohibited in a hospital setting. The mother is often more comfortable in her own home and increased comfort contributes to shorter labor. The germs that colonize the baby's skin and gut are the normal germs of that family's home, to which the baby has immunity acquired from the mother.
Conversely, some mothers are more comfortable in a hospital setting because they implicitly trust the medical system and because they prefer to be closer to an operating room should an emergency arise, such as the need for a caesarean section.
Last updated: 05-15-2005 13:52:17