How to have a safe home birth
While less than 10% of women in New Zealand have a home birth (compared to almost a third of all pregnant women in the Netherlands), giving birth at home can be just as safe as a hospital labour if you make the necessary preparations.
“If you’re well and healthy, your pregnancy has been straightforward and you and your baby are in good physical condition, then giving birth at home is really safe,” says Dr Caroline Homer, director of the Centre for Midwifery and Family Health at University of Technology Sydney.
While a skilled midwife should oversee every home birth, here’s what you need to know about having your baby at home:
Who can have a home birth
Any pregnant woman in New Zealand can have a home birth, as long as the birth is progressing well and you don’t have any medical conditions that make hospital a safer option. Mums who are having a breech birth, or giving birth to twins, are advised not to have a home birth, along with women who’ve had complications with a previous birth. Talk it through with your GP or midwife to find out the best solution for you.
Tell your GP or midwife as early as possible that you’re thinking of having a home birth. While some hospitals do have a publicly-funded home birth midwife unit, you may have to hire an independent midwife at your own cost. As your pregnancy progresses, you’ll have continuous care with your midwife, who will be there for the birth, oversee contractions and may carry out internal examinations. A home birth midwife carries safety equipment such as oxygen, and medication to slow bleeding, and can bring along gas and air in portable cylinders on request. If you decide you want an epidural, or the birth is progressing slowly, the midwife will organise an ambulance and you’ll be transferred to your nearest hospital.
The positives of a home birth
Many women choose to have a home birth so they’re in a familiar, stress-free environment during labour. There’s no mad dash to the hospital and pillows, music, warm water and often a birthing pool are all at hand, along with having your own bed to fall asleep in afterwards with your hubby and new baby. Family can be around for the birth and you’ll be comfortable with your midwife, having gotten to know her over the course of your pregnancy. Your midwife will also be around in the days after the birth, helping with breastfeeding and visiting you to check on your wellbeing. Every woman can also access all of the usual scans and antenatal tests when having a home birth.
The negatives of a home birth
Unless there is a publicly-funded home birth midwife unit in your area, one of the biggest drawbacks of having a home birth is the expense: the high cost of hiring an independent midwife makes it impossible for many families to consider it as a viable option. On the other hand, some women might consider the lack of medication, such as epidurals, at home as just as much of a negative aspect.
How much does a home birth cost?
It varies but a home birth can cost between $3,000 and $5,000, with the money used to hire an independent midwife who will be with you throughout pregnancy, labour and birth. Make sure you check when booking.
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This article was written by Joanna Bounds for Kidspot, New Zealand’s best family health resource.
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