The Home Birth Advantage: The Physical and Emotional Benefits of Birthing at Home - Page 2

Author // Ronnie Falcão, LM, MS

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The Home Birth Advantage: The Physical and Emotional Benefits of Birthing at Home
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Many women wonder whether they’ll be able to give birth at home without drugs; in fact, most women do just fine. Many women who have had babies both at home and in the hospital assert that birthing is much less painful at home, in familiar surroundings, with birth attendants who could cater to every need.

Childbirth classes teach about the fear-tension-pain cycle, whereby fear increases tension, causing the cervix to constrict rather than dilate, which in turn increases pain. It’s a process that’s counterproductive to birthing. When fear is absent from the birthing environment, the opposite cycle can play out: confidence-relaxation-comfort. That is, the more confident you are, the better able you are to relax, and the more comfortable you’ll be. This allows your body to secrete endorphins, which are the natural pain relief intended by nature for the mother’s body during natural childbirth.

As a laboring woman’s body produces more oxytocin to increase the effectiveness of her contractions, she also produces an equivalent level of endorphins for pain relief. (These endorphins aren’t produced if the mother is under stress or feeling afraid.) It is not uncommon for women to become increasingly relaxed as labor progresses, due to their endorphin levels climbing as the intensity increases. It’s easy to imagine how being in your own home can increase your confidence and ability to relax. A birthing tub provides even greater comfort, immersing the mother in the warm weightlessness of water.

Water birthing offers the woman the option of laboring and birthing in a tub. When a baby is born in water, the baby continues to receive all of its oxygen through the placenta until it is above water and using its lungs successfully. Thus, there is no risk of drowning, even if the baby crowns slowly over several contractions. The buoyancy provided by the water seems to help the mother and baby find the optimal position for birthing. In addition, the warm water increases blood flow to the uterus, which not only provides the necessary oxygen to the baby, but facilitates cervical dilation and reduces pain. Babies born in water are usually in excellent condition, and they are easily comforted by the familiarity of warm water.

The experience of birth for the baby at home is usually very gentle. We know that babies recognize voices during late pregnancy, so it is believed that the baby recognizes the midwife’s voice as someone nonthreatening and familiar. Homebirth midwives don’t use any devices that go inside the uterus or might be uncomfortable for the baby, and women are encouraged to birth in a position they choose. Positions chosen by the mother, such as an upright position, or on her hands and knees, tend to minimize stress on the baby and facilitate an easier birth.

Many homebirth couples choose to catch their own baby, and the assessment of baby’s well-being right at birth can be easily done with the baby still in the mother’s arms. Some midwives don’t ever hold the baby until the mother feels ready to have the baby weighed. Most parts of the newborn exam can be performed with the baby in the arms of the mom or dad. And because there is no rush to cut the cord, the baby receives all of its nutrient-rich cord blood, as nature intends.

Families who already have a little one at home appreciate how much easier it is for the older sibling to adjust to a new baby when their mom doesn’t mysteriously disappear for a few days. It may be wise to have a special family friend or a professional child doula there to care for the older child during the birth, but many siblings happily participate during the birth or sleep right through the excitement.

Easier Than You Think

The logistics of planning a home birth are often not as complex as couples assume. Babies born at home get a birth certificate and social security number, just like hospital born babies. (Your midwife can provide the necessary paperwork.) Birth kits with disposable supplies can be easily purchased online. Even larger items, such as birthing tubs, can be affordably purchased or rented.

Home birth is legal, and because it is far less expensive than hospital birthing, in some states insurance companies will cover the cost or even negotiate an in-network rate for out-of-network providers. In California, for example, even some HMOs cover home birth. Insurance coverage for home birth varies tremendously from state to state and from one health-insurance carrier to the next, so it is important to contact your own insurance company for more information. When you do so, you can tell them that the savings associated with home birth as the norm are estimated to be around $15 billion annually.

On an individual level, if you’re paying out of pocket for your birth, you may end up spending $2000 to $5,000, depending on where you live and the services you get. (For example, many home birth midwives will include well-care newborn check-ups for several weeks after the birth, right in your home.) Hospital births range from $8,000 to more than $30,000 for vaginal births, and can run as high as $50,000 for cesarean births, which involve additional days in the hospital for mother and baby as a result of the major surgical procedure.

Home birth provides an opportunity for a safe and satisfying birth experience, putting the needs of the baby first. She’s the most important person during the event: Shouldn’t she be treated like it?

About the Author:

Ronnie Falcão, LM, MSRonnie Falcão, LM, MS, is a home birth midwife practicing for twelve years in and around Mountain View, California. A direct- entry midwife trained through a home birth apprenticeship and a residential internship at Casa de Nacimiento birth center in El Paso, Texas, she was licensed in 1997 under the California Challenge Process through the Seattle School of Midwifery. Ronnie is editor of the Midwife Archives at Her personal web page is

Pathways Issue 24 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #24.

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