How To Have a Home Birth and Why You Might Want To


Do you dislike hospitals? Or do you want to save as much money as possible by delivering your baby from the comfort of your own home? Whatever your motivation, home birth can be a viable option.

The key to pulling off a successful home birth is knowing all it entails and preparing for any problem that might arise. We’ll go over everything you need to know so you can make an educated decision about whether this option is right for you.

Kick your legs up to avoid those pregnancy cankles, and let us give you the 411 on the growing trend of home births.

Home Birth Infographic by Mom Loves Best

What is Home Birth?

It’s when you plan to give birth in the comfort of your home instead of delivering your baby in a hospital or a birth center. You can still have medical professionals on hand to help you, but it won’t be a doctor. Some home births use a certified nurse midwife or another type of midwife instead of a doctor.

You might also want to employ the services of a doula too. You can think of your doula as a personal assistant. He or she will get you through the last stages of your gestation period and your labor.

Although it may sound scary to some women to give birth outside of a hospital setting, it carries great appeal for other women. Some of the reasons for wanting a home birth include:

  • Having a traumatic experience with a prior hospital birth.
  • Wanting as little medical intervention as possible.
  • Being worried about the germs in hospitals.
  • Not liking hospitals in general.
  • Cutting the costs of having a baby, especially for those who are uninsured, underinsured, or who have high deductibles.
  • Having cultural or religious concerns that may not be addressed or honored in a hospital setting.
  • The desire or necessity to stay with other children or family members at home.
  • Feeling safe in the comfort of your own home.

Home Birth Vs Hospital Birth

When considering the impact and effectiveness of home births compared to hospital births, it’s helpful to consider hard facts. Here are some key statistics that may be useful to you as you weigh your options.

By The Numbers

U.S. home births per year vs hospital births

Home births are still relatively rare in the U.S., with only 35,000 births happening at home (1). One-fourth of the at-home births are unplanned or unattended by qualified medical professionals. That represents .9 percent of births each year in the U.S.

Neonatal mortality

The death rate for babies from birth to 27 days old is higher with home births than with hospital births. For hospital births attended by a certified nurse midwife (CNM), the neonatal mortality rate was 3.2 deaths out of 10,000. For a home birth with a CNM in attendance, that number jumps to 10 out of 10,000 (2).

If an uncertified midwife is used in a home birth, that number goes even higher — to a neonatal mortality rate of 13.7 out of 10,000 births. That underscores the importance of hiring a CNM instead of a midwife with less training if you’re going to have a home birth.

Keep It In Perspective

The risk of mortality with an uncertified midwife is 0.137%. The risk of mortality in a hospital with a CNM is 0.032%. While less is certainly better, overall, both of these numbers are very small.

In certain situations, such as a birth that occurs after 41 weeks gestation, the gap in the neonatal mortality rates are even more pronounced, with a neonatal mortality rate of 2.7 per 10,000 births with a CNM in a hospital setting, 10.3 per 10,000 births with a CNM in a home setting, and 21.6 per 10,000 with an uncertified midwife in a home setting.

It’s worth noting the neonatal mortality rate for home births in the study we cited may actually be higher. Any baby that was born at home and was later transferred to a hospital before dying would have been listed by CDC data as a hospital outcome instead of a home one.

Likelihood of medical interventions

One question moms may ask is if they are more likely to need interventions such as an operative vaginal delivery or Cesarean section with a planned home birth. The answer is no. Despite the higher neonatal mortality rate, the need for medical interventions is actually much lower with planned home births than hospital births.

Here are the rates for common interventions, both at home and at the hospital (3):

  • Inducing labor: 48 per 1,000 births in out-of-hospital settings, compared to 304 out of 1,000 births in the hospital.
  • Cesarean delivery: 53 per 1,000 births in out-of-hospital settings, compared to 247 out of 1,000 births in the hospital.
  • Operative vaginal delivery (requiring the use of forceps or a vacuum): 10 per 1,000 births in out-of-hospital settings, compared to 35 per 1,000 births in the hospital.
  • Labor augmentation: 75 per 1,000 births in out-of-hospital settings, compared to 263 per 1,000 births in the hospital.

The one intervention that appears to happen more frequently at out-of-the-hospital planned births than during in-hospital planned births is blood transfusions to treat hemorrhage. That happens in six out of 1,000 out-of-hospital births, compared to 4 out of 1,000 hospital births.

Hospital transfer rate

Moms may also want to know what the hospital transfer rate is for home births that can not be safely completed at home. In one review of studies of home births in Western countries, including the U.S., the rate of transfers from home to hospital at any stage of the birthing process or immediately after ranged from 9.9 percent to 31.9 percent (4).

The transfer rate was much higher for women who had never given birth before. That rate ranged from 23.4 percent to 45.4 percent throughout the studies. For women who already had children, that rate was much lower, ranging from 5.8 percent to 12 percent.

Result of home trial of labor after C-section

If you’ve had a C-section for a prior birth, it may be riskier for you to have your future babies at home. If you’ve had a vaginal birth since that C-section, you can still have a healthy outcome with a home birth though (5). You’ll have to weigh your options, considering how your prior deliveries went, as well as your overall health.

I firmly believe that every woman should be offered the opportunity for a Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (VBAC). Unfortunately, many hospitals do not provide that option.

The concern with giving birth at home is that women who have had uterine surgery have a slightly increased risk of uterine rupture, but this risk is less than 1 per 100 women (6). If your home is a far distance from the hospital or your birth attendant does not have a good relationship with a back-up physician, you and your baby’s life could be in jeopardy. It’s important to know your comfort level and to be aware of the risks and benefits.

Headshot of Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

Editor's Note:

Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

Home Birth Pros and Cons

  • It can be more comfortable to labor and give birth in familiar surroundings: You’re used to every small detail about your house and your belongings. That can be a big advantage when you’re feeling oversized, clumsy, scared, and in pain.
  • Unlimited presence of family and friends and rest in your own bed after delivery: At home, there aren’t any visiting hours. Your mom can stay as long as you want her to. And if you hate hospital beds, you’ll love getting to sleep in yours instead.
  • Religious or cultural factors will be considered: You have complete control over your setting. If you want to burn candles in a religious ceremony before or even during the birth, you’re free to do so at home.
  • More intimate, and greater control about who is allowed to stop by and who isn’t: When I gave birth to my first baby at a hospital, I made it clear I didn’t want an onslaught of visitors until I got home. Instead, a lot of well-meaning people who figured my directives didn’t include them showed up, so my intimate setting became more like a party a high school student throws when their parents are away. They tell only one or two people they can come over and before long, half their high school is there, but with a home birth, all you have to do is lock the door.
  • Freedom to eat and drink as desired before delivery: Think you can handle more than just ice chips before delivery? At home, you can have whatever you want, within reason. Just make sure you can keep it down if things start to get dicey.
  • No IV lines, birth monitors, or nighttime checks from doctors as there are in hospitals: I remember having to page my nurse every time I had to go to the bathroom because it was a major production to drag all my equipment with me. That wasn’t fun. At home, you won’t have so much equipment to deal with.
  • Freedom to choose the delivery position, how long to labor, and whether to use other birthing elements: Some moms deal with labor pains by taking a warm shower, and some hospitals frown upon that. At home, you can take that shower to help, and you can have more input on your delivery position and more.
  • Low risk of exposure to hospital germs: I’m not anti-hospital — I had both my children there — but the germs seriously freaked me out. I’m there to have a baby, not contract a superbug!
  • Reduced delivery costs: Looking over the itemized list from my first delivery was enough to drive up my blood pressure. I still don’t understand how a hospital is allowed to charge $7 for a single dose of Tylenol. It is so much cheaper to deliver at home, provided everything goes smoothly.
  • Optional in-home follow up and lactation support available: Your team of your midwife and doula, if you hire one, will have your back. They’ll give you the support you need, checking in on you after the birth and providing lactation support if needed.
  • Poor insurance coverage if any: In many states, your health insurance provider won’t cover home births, or they may only offer limited coverage. If you have a high deductible though, you’d still be paying thousands for your hospital delivery, so you still might come out ahead financially by having an uncomplicated home delivery.
  • No pain relief or epidural: You’re going to have to opt for a largely natural birth. There won’t be a way to get you an epidural.
  • Need to be transported to the hospital if an emergency occurs: This is a big con because it can mean the difference between having potentially life-saving care when you need it. It can also negate some of the advantages of home birth, like saving money or staying away from germy hospitals.
  • Issues if your midwife is unable to handle complications in time: Choose a qualified professional to improve your chances of a good outcome.
  • Arranging newborn & postpartum care: You may need to handle details like arranging postpartum check-ups or filing your infant’s birth certificate on your own. These are some of the hassles you might not want to handle when you’re recovering from childbirth and wanting to bond with your new baby. It’s one advantage to using a hospital.

Hospital Birth Pros and Cons

  • Full monitoring and interventions available: If you need an IV or a fetal heart monitor, it’s there. You’ll also get regular checks on vitals. Emergency assistance can be easily provided should you need it.
  • Higher likelihood of insurance coverage: The majority of health insurance providers cover most of the things a hospital will do for you while you’re giving birth.
  • Pain relief or epidural available if desired: Some first-time moms want to deliver without an epidural. But that sometimes changes when they feel how intense labor pains can be. If you have a home birth, changing your mind won’t be an option.
  • Freedom to use a midwife and/or doula throughout labor and delivery in most hospitals: If you’re leaning toward home birth because you like the idea of having an advocate and team with you during birth, be aware that you can use a midwife and doula in the majority of hospitals.
  • Assistance from trained nurses to help care for your baby: Having a baby takes a lot out of you. You may not be ready to start caring for your baby immediately. If that happens, it’s nice to know it’s already covered.
  • On-site lactation support: If you want to breastfeed, you’ll find all the support you need to do so at the hospital. And if you opt to feed with formula instead, the hospital will honor those wishes and supply formula for your baby while you’re there.
  • Food and fluid intake will be limited to ice chips: That’s all you’ll get. It doesn’t matter how long your labor is. That can be upsetting to some women who truly would feel better with a little energy from food or beverages.
  • Limited labor time in most hospitals: Many hospitals don’t let your labor go too long without intervening. Many doctors give their patients Pitocin to speed up contractions, or they go straight for a C-section. With a home birth, you’ll have a say in when this happens.
  • Some hospitals may not allow for water births: If that’s something you have your heart set on, you’ll likely have to do it in a non-hospital setting.
  • Not enough privacy: There will be far more people than you may be comfortable with seeing you without your clothes on. And people can stop by to see you, even if you’ve explicitly asked them to wait until you’re home.
  • More interventions: Many women want to escape the hospital’s rigid protocols. Some interventions like continuous electronic fetal monitoring on low-risk women have been shown to increase the risk of primary c-section but do not result in better outcomes (7).
  • Mothers may be away from their baby more than they’d like: The baby will have bathing, screenings, and vitals taken. That means less time with you in the first couple of days.
  • More expensive, if uninsured or underinsured: Some high deductible plans make hospital births a costlier option than home births. And if you’re uninsured completely, a hospital birth may be out of your price range, even with a payment plan.

Other Options Available

There are other choices besides a home birth or a hospital birth.

If you have a birthing center near you, that’s also a viable option. Birthing centers are often viewed as a middle ground between the formality of hospitals and the informality of home births.

If you opt for a birthing center, you don’t generally have access to epidurals. But they may have other items for pain relief hospitals often do not, such as nitrous oxide, Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulator (TENS) units, hydrotherapy, jacuzzis, and massage.

Should you need them, birth centers have IVs available, as well as oxygen, emergency medications, and other items you might not have at a home birth (8).

Under certain conditions, you’ll likely be unable to use a birth center. Some of the factors that would make it a no-go include:

  • Advanced maternal age — usually 35 or older.
  • Having multiples.
  • Complications such as high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.
  • Finding out the baby is in breech position.

A final option available to you is having an unassisted birth. With this type, no medical professional is present at the birth. Proponents say it’s a great bonding experience for the couple and the baby.

Find a birth professional who is well-trained in emergencies and will respect you and your family’s wishes. Unassisted birthing can have some pretty significant risks. I believe in respecting a patient’s autonomy, but please do not make this choice lightly.
Headshot of Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

Editor's Note:

Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

If you have a high-risk pregnancy, there are major safety implications with this option though. If you are low risk and you decide to go with this birthing plan, you should have a contingency plan in place in case you or your child need intervention. You’ll also need to do some heavy preparations ahead of time to ensure you know what you’re doing and that you have all the items you’ll need.

Planning Your Home Birth

Convinced you want a home birth? Then let’s look at what it takes to make it happen.

1. Research Your Options

Before you commit to a home birth, you have to realize they aren’t appropriate for all mothers. There are circumstances in which a home birth will not be a safe option for you. Although it can be disappointing, your end goal is to have a healthy and happy outcome.

Who Can Have a Home Birth?

How do you know if a home birth is a choice you can make? Here are some criteria you’ll have to meet. You must (9):

  1. Have a low-risk pregnancy without high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV, hepatitis, or lupus.
  2. Have no history of C-section (or some other types of uterine surgery) or preterm delivery. These would increase your risk of having a less-than-desirable outcome.
  3. Only be pregnant with a single fetus. You can’t be expecting multiples.
  4. Be expecting a baby that will weigh less than 8 pounds, 8 ounces. Bigger babies can complicate matters.
  5. Be close to the nearest hospital — generally 15 minutes or less.
  6. Have a baby that’s in a good birthing position with its head down near the due date.
  7. Be between weeks 36 and 41 of pregnancy. You can’t be preterm or overdue.
  8. Have spontaneous labor or be induced as an outpatient.
  9. Have a qualified midwife or other personnel in attendance at your home birth.
  10. Have no psychiatric disturbances requiring inpatient care.

While you don’t necessarily have to already have had children to have a home birth, it is often recommended. That’s because there is a much smaller chance of needing a hospital transfer for women who have had babies before than there is for first-time mothers. Complications are more likely for that subset of mothers, although it is still overall a low risk (10).

Should You Have a Water Birth?Woman delivering water birth

The idea of a water birth sounds fascinating to some women, especially those who have always been drawn to water.

Pros of Water Birth

  • Warm water is relaxing: That can feel amazing during labor when you’re tense, worried, and in pain.
  • Buoyancy reduces mother’s weight: You already feel like a clumsy elephant during those last days of pregnancy. You’ll welcome anything that can take some of that feeling away.
  • In late labor, water may boost energy: Water can be energizing as well as relaxing for some women.
  • Buoyancy can assist the efficiency of your uterine contractions and help your blood circulation: More efficient contractions can mean less overall pain for you. The boost in your blood circulation can mean a steady supply of oxygen for your baby (11).
  • Being in water may lower high blood pressure induced by anxiety: Labor is a stressful time and keeping your blood pressure under control is beneficial for both you and your baby.
  • Being immersed may cut down on your chances of having an episiotomy: Water increases the elasticity of the perineum. If it is relaxed, you might tear less and need fewer or no stitches.
  • The water can make you feel as if you have more privacy: That can make you feel less on display. That can give you the confidence you need to try new positions that may help with your pain.
  • The ACOG acknowledges that immersion in water in the first stage of labor might lead to a shorter labor: Shorter labor? There’s no woman who would turn that down!
  • It creates an environment they are used to — the conditions of the amniotic sac: Babies are used to the floating sensation of being in water.
  • Feeling at home in the water can ease the stress of birth for your baby: That may provide them with some sense of security or reassurance.

Cons of Water Birth

  • The ACOG does not recommend water birth because of the risks involved: You must educate yourself about the risks and determine how much having a water birth means to you.
  • The need to clean up: With a home water birth, someone is going to have to clean up afterward. Some midwives have no trouble cleaning up after. But it is wise to discuss that with your CNM and doula, if you have one, ahead of time.
  • It will cost more: A water birth will add to the cost of your home birth. But if it helps with your pain level, it may be worth it, especially since you won’t have the option or expense of an epidural at home.

Risks of Water Birth

Let’s examine the medical risks to you and your baby if you opt for a water birth (12):

  • Infection from water inhalation: A tub can be sterile before you enter it, but after a while, it’s not sterile anymore, thanks to any potential feces that come out during labor. If a baby swallows or inhales some of that water, an infection could happen.
  • Tearing of umbilical cord: By bringing the baby up to the surface fast so it can breathe, the umbilical cord may tear. That can be life-threatening for your baby.
  • Drowning: Water births carry a risk of drowning. That’s why a baby must immediately be brought to the surface after delivery.
  • Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a serious condition at any age, and water births increase the risk. Any medical personnel helping at your water birth must keep the temperature of the water between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit and bring the baby up to the surface for air right away. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria from the water in the tub, fecal contamination, and meconium aspiration if a baby has its first bowel movement before it is delivered (13).

Water Births Should Not Take Place If

  • The mother has herpes.
  • You have a high-risk pregnancy, such as one involving gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.
  • You enter labor before 37 weeks of gestation (14).
  • Breech presentation — although it has been accomplished with a breech baby, you might be hard pressed to find a practitioner willing to perform it because of the increased risk.
  • There is excessive bleeding or a maternal infection.
  • You are expecting multiples.
  • There is fetal distress.
  • Severe meconium because your baby has already had its first bowel movement.
  • The patient is highly obese.
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2. Choose a Midwife

At this stage, you need to think like the Avengers and assemble your team! Your best bet for making sure things run smoothly during a home birth is employing a certified nurse midwife (CNM).

To be designated as such, they have to have a graduate degree in midwifery and they’ll also have trained as nurses (15). CNMs receive certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board.

There are also certified midwives (CMs), who complete a graduate level midwife program too. But the difference between a CM and a CNM is that they didn’t study nursing. CMs are highly trained providers who pass the same certification exam by the American Midwifery Certification Board as a CNM. They are not available in all states yet.

To make things even more confusing, there are certified professional midwives (CPMs) too. CPMs have been tested by the North American Registry of Midwives, but are not required to have entered the midwife program with any nursing experience or background. These professionals are not linked to hospitals — they work with birth centers and in home births only.

If you are set on a home birth, you should strongly consider employing a CNM as they have nurse training and more overall medical experience than other types of midwives. It makes sense to get as much experience and training on your side as possible (16).

What To Ask Your Potential Midwife:

  • Their background and experience: You’ll want to know about any nursing experience they have, as well as how many home births they have under their belts. Ask for references.
  • Their emergency management strategies: Inquire as to what complications they have had during home births and what the outcomes were. It’s also good to ask if they are certified in adult and neonatal resuscitation. Finally, ask what transfer plans they’ll have in place if you or your baby needs emergency care they can’t perform.
  • What pain relief options they offer, if any: As we mentioned earlier, an epidural is off the table when it comes to home births. Ask your midwife what medications she offers for pain and what therapies she can offer to take the edge off, such as massage or a TENS unit.
  • What kind of relationship they have with the local hospital: Find out if they have a good relationship with your hospital. That will give you a better idea as to their experience level and how readily they may sound the alarm if you need help. You shouldn’t take their word for it though — you can also talk to the hospital too.
  • About the equipment they’ll have: Find out what equipment they bring with them to home deliveries. Will they bring medical equipment like oxygen or emergency medications? If you are having a water birth, figure out if they’ll rent the tub or if you’ll have to.
  • How much aftercare they’ll provide: Find out how many follow-up visits you receive, and if they will give you lactation support. You should also ask who will clean up the tub if you’re doing a water birth. If that’s on you, you’ll need to line up someone because you won’t be up to the task.

3. Have an Emergency Plan

Pregnant woman sitting on her knees on the bed

You need to think in advance and figure out what you’ll do in case of emergencies. This is something you and your midwife should discuss in advance. You don’t want to wait until an emergency is underway to come up with a plan!

You should make it clear to your midwife you’d like to head to a hospital if any of the following situations happen:

  • Your blood pressure goes up: Slight increases may not be enough to head to the hospital for, but you can ask for a threshold you should start to be concerned about.
  • You desire pain relief: Other than some minor medications, you’ll be out of luck at home, and it may be too late by the time you get to the hospital to get that epidural you didn’t think you would need. Sometimes there is only one anesthesiologist on staff and they may be too busy to attend to you — I know this because it happened to me when I said in advance I didn’t want an epidural during labor and later changed my mind. I had to deliver without that epidural because the anesthesiologist on staff was too busy.
  • Your baby is not positioned correctly: If your baby is breech or transverse, this can be a dangerous situation and you’ll need to go to the hospital.
  • Vaginal bleeding that isn’t bloody show or doesn’t have an apparent cause: That can spell trouble, and you might need more medical care than you can have at home.
  • Signs of distress in your baby before delivery or after birth: A fetal heart monitor can tell you before birth if your baby’s heart rate is abnormal and there could be a problem. After birth, get to the hospital if there is any difficulty breathing for the baby or signs that could signify a medical condition.
  • Traces of meconium in amniotic fluid: As I mentioned earlier, this can be a medical emergency for your baby. It’s best to get to the hospital if this happens.
  • Complications like placental abruption or umbilical cord prolapse: If your placenta detaches before delivery or your umbilical cord drops or your umbilical cord drops into your vagina before your baby does, this is an obstetrical emergency that must report directly to the hospital.
  • The placenta isn’t delivered or isn’t delivered completely: The placenta must be fully removed. Otherwise it can cause the mother to hemorrhage shortly after, or even weeks after, the birth (17). If it’s been more than a half hour, you should start to think about alternatives– by an hour you should be en route to the hospital.

Before the big day, make sure you have all these bases covered:

  • Have an emergency hospital bag packed in case your home birth goes awry.
  • Have a back-up hospital in mind in case you can’t go to the first one.
  • Have a ride to the hospital lined up. If your partner isn’t in the picture, see if a friend or family member can take you.
  • Line up someone to watch your older children if you have any.

4. Decide on the Details

Your plan needs to cover the details of your home birth as well — not just the worst-case scenario. It may look like a home birth is simpler, and in some ways it is. But you still have to plan for it, just as you would any other big event.

You need to figure out:

  • Where in your house you’ll have your baby: Maybe you’ll want it to be in your bedroom, or maybe you’ll need it to be in the living room or kitchen where there is room to set up a tub if you want a water birth.
  • Who will be there: Do you want it to be just your partner, you, and your midwife? That’s fine — it’s your moment. If you want others there, but just immediately after or for a limited time, consider creating a mock waiting room in another room of your house with some beverages and snacks ready for them.
  • Whether you should have a water birth: Although water births are riskier than on-land births, you still may decide it’s right for you. If so, make sure you have an experienced professional with you that day and get someone to give you a hand to do any prep work ahead of the time.

5. Check Insurance Coverage

Before you get too attached to the idea of a home birth and what all it might involve, it’s good to know your budget. That shouldn’t be the deciding factor, but new parents have enough stress without adding in big bills as well.

Do yourself a favor and call your insurance provider and ask how much, if any, they cover for home births. What will be covered varies widely from provider to provider. Some will cover extras such as doulas, while others won’t.

You’ll want to know ahead of time so you don’t have an unhappy surprise after the birth. Never assume when it comes to insurance coverage!

6. Do Necessary Labs

Just because you’re planning on a home birth, it doesn’t mean you get to skip the labs a woman who plans to deliver in a hospital would have to take. Having all the information you need may help you have a healthy delivery.

Some of the labs you should consider taking include:

  • A urine culture: This test is taken earlier in the pregnancy. It can help spot a kidney or urinary tract infection which could cause an early delivery or a baby with a low birth weight. It will also tell your provider if you have a bacteria called Group B Strep (GBS) in your urine.
  • A screening test for Group B strep: GBS screening occurs around the 36th week of pregnancy. This bacteria in the vagina won’t harm you but can be deadly if transmitted to your baby. GBS condition can cause sepsis, pneumonia, hearing loss, and a host of disabilities in children (18).
  • A urine test which looks for protein and glucose: Elevated protein in the urine can mean kidney disease or damage, although it can be a temporary spike caused by stress or other factors. The glucose test could point to diabetes, which they’ll treat with dietary changes and possibly insulin.
  • Complete blood count: This blood test can help doctors identify anemia, infections, and women who may not be efficient with clot formation and could have an increased chance of fatal bleeding while delivering.
  • Blood Type: It is used to determine what your blood type is (A, AB, B, or O) and if you are Rh-positive or negative. Rh-negative women who are pregnant with an Rh-positive baby face additional risks that require further testing and a RhoGAM injection.
    Hepatitis B: Screening for Hepatitis B is important because mom can pass Hepatitis B to her baby if the infant is not properly treated.
    STI screening: Most OB providers screen for HIV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis. These infections can be life-threatening for a baby.

7. Obtain Cleaning and Other Necessary Supplies

If you’re going to have a home birth, that means you’ll need to prepare by making sure you have all the medical and cleaning supplies you’ll need. You’ll want to check with your midwife to see what she may bring with her — and that list will vary depending upon what level he or she is. A CNM will likely have more equipment than a midwife with less training.

Supplies your midwife might bring include IV fluids, oxygen masks for infants, an oxygen tank, oxygen delivery device for adults, cord clamps, disposable gloves, and suturing materials.

When it comes to supplies you should stock (19):

  • Overnight pads.
  • Loose-fitting, easy-to-put-on clothes.
  • Easy-to-digest snacks.
  • Acetaminophen.
  • A water bottle.
  • Extra pillows.
  • Extra sheets.
  • A pail in case you vomit.
  • Popsicles and ice chips.
  • Ice pack.
  • A heating pad.
  • Plastic trash bag.
  • Plenty of toilet paper.
  • A thermometer.
  • Multiple receiving blankets.
  • Washcloths and towels.
  • A mirror if you plan to watch the birth of your baby.
  • Music you might want to listen to during labor.
  • Inflatable tub if you’re planning on a water birth.
  • Germ-killing wipes for cleaning up surfaces afterward.
  • Disposable cleaning cloths or sponges.

8. Mental Preparation

To help get yourself ready for the big day, you should have a written birth plan in place in which you spell out your wishes for labor. That can include things such as where in the house you want to have your baby, how to cope with labor pain, and how much medical intervention you want.

To relax before your labor begins, you can try things like visualizing a happy, healthy birth, lighting candles, listening to soothing music, and taking warm, but not hot, baths. Take some deep, calming breaths to center yourself and ease your tension. Remind yourself the majority of births are successful and that you’ll soon be holding your precious baby in your arms after dreaming for nine months of that moment.

Find some powerful sayings and write them on cards you can refer to during labor. Even simple mantras like “You can do anything,” can be tremendously helpful.

Remember To Act If Needed

Hope for the best possible outcome you can have, but be prepared for the worst by acknowledging at some point you may need a transfer to the hospital. While that may be disappointing and not what you wanted to happen, remind yourself the ultimate goal is a safe delivery and healthy baby to love.

9. Prepare Your Home and Family

Now that you know what to expect and what it takes to pull off a home birth, you need to educate everyone else who will be taking part that day. That includes making sure your partner is up to speed and on board by taking birthing classes and/or watching videos.

If you have older children, you can explain to them what will be happening. If you feel they are too young and they may be scared by labor or the sight of blood, you can make arrangements for them to stay at a family member’s house or with a friend for a day or two. That will give you more freedom during your labor without worrying about them being underfoot.

Here are some other things you can do to prepare for your labor:

  • Create an easy-to-read cheat sheet with your birth plan on it, as well as any pertinent information your spouse should know if they must make a quick decision for you.
  • Clean your home — it’s the last time you’ll do it for a while so you’ll want it to be in good shape initially. It doesn’t take long for clutter and a mess to accumulate.
  • Set up the birth tub if you want a water birth.
  • Put down waterproof sheets or a plastic tarp, or both, on your mattress to protect it.
  • Make some meals to store in your freezer that you can easily pop in the oven so you don’t have to cook while you’re recovering. Aim for having a week’s worth of meals.

10. Prepare to Document Either on Video or Photographs

If you want to preserve this experience on video or with photos, you’ll need to hire someone, unless your partner happens to be handy with a camera.

To find a birth photographer who does this kind of work, you can ask any of your friends for references. If you don’t have any friends who hired a birth photographer, you can ask your doctor or midwife if they have any recommendations for you.

If that doesn’t work, you can contact any photographers in your area and ask point blank if they take labor photos. If they don’t, you can ask for the name of a photographer who does. Photographers often network just as other professionals do so if they know someone, they’ll point you in the right direction.

With this kind of photo shoot, a key element is lighting. You don’t want overhead, harsh lights that are going to be unflattering. You can try having some lamps or candles lit to provide a softer light.

You can make a list of key shots you want to have taken so that way your photographer knows what you would like to get out of this photo shoot.

Home Birth Experiences

Home birth experiences can vary greatly — some are unplanned, while others were planned months before. Some go off without a hitch while others have full-fledged emergencies.

Let’s look at some examples of home births.

  • Yuni Chen, 25, an EMT training graduate at Boston University, couldn’t get to the hospital in time and gave birth in her home recently. Despite a scary moment when the baby’s shoulder was caught during delivery and it didn’t initially cry, both mother and baby came through the experience just fine (20).
  • Aja Graydon decided to have her baby — she was already a mom at the time — at home because she didn’t have insurance. The birth went well and her other children got to experience the birth of their sibling (21).
  • Kara Rea of Boston had a home water birth while utilizing a midwife. After a 12-hour labor, her daughter was born. Mom and baby both did well, with no ill effects. (22).
  • Danielle Yeager, who had planned a home water birth, lost her son after complications while trying to have her baby two weeks past her due date. She was transferred to the hospital for an emergency C-section when the certified professional midwife Yeager had hired noticed the baby was in distress on her Doppler an hour earlier. The baby had suffered and died from meconium aspiration (23).
  • Ashley Martin has spoken out about how both she and her baby almost died during her planned home birth. She felt she was misled about the experience and even lied to. Martin called the home birth her “biggest regret in life” and says she still has nightmares about the incident (24).

To see videos of home births, here are two success stories for you to enjoy.

  • Adonis Smith was born in 2018 during a planned home water birth. Adonis was immediately brought up to the surface during the birth, which is one of the keys to making a water birth safer.
  • Winter Nimmons made her appearance into this world in 2018 after her mother had a planned home birth. The mom had a midwife, assistant midwife, and two doulas in attendance.

You’re In Charge

It’s your body and your baby, so it’s your call when it comes to the type of birthing experience you want to have. But, no matter which avenue you choose, remember, it’s your job to be your own advocate. Whether you’re being attended by a doctor, a midwife, or a doula, if you feel something is being mishandled, get a second opinion.

While the majority of home births are safe, they do carry an increased risk for baby mortality, so having a solid plan in place and a capable midwife is crucial.

Whichever route you go, we wish you a safe and happy journey, and if you have any questions, please let us know.

Did you have a home birth? What was your experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section and we’d be grateful if you’d share our article with any other moms you know.

Headshot of Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

Reviewed by

Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

Caitlin Goodwin MSN, RN, CNM is a Certified Nurse-Midwife, clinical instructor and educator. She has ten years of nursing experience and enjoys blogging about family travel and autism in her free time.
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