These days, hospitals are the most usual place for a woman to give birth, but up until the 1940s, pretty much all births took place at home. Feminists fought for women to have the right to have access to medical treatment and to give birth in hospital and their campaigning was so successful that by the 70s about 95% of births in western countries were in hospital. This didn’t quiet the rows however, and feminist now began to ask whether the “medicalisation” of childbirth had robbed women of the right to choose.
Now, some 30 years later we have the right to choose. Choosing to have your baby at home is a very personal decision and might meet with some opposition from those who are genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of you and your baby. However, armed with the right midwife, the right knowledge and the go ahead from your doctor you can be secure in your decision.
But before you set your heart on it, here are a few questions to ask yourself at the outset.
Am I a candidate for a home birth?
I am if I’m:
Enjoying a complication-free pregnancy
Fit and strong
Surrounded by those who support and believe in my decisions
Fully aware of the process of labour and the journey my body will go through
Flexible… because nothing about birth is predictable
The truth is, if you have had a chronic medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, then you are probably not a good candidate for home birth. Plus if you have experienced any pre-natal complications, are over due, expecting multiples or have a breech baby then it’s not an option for you. There are other conditions that will exclude you from having a home birth so chat to your doctor or midwife before setting your heart on any birthing plan and remember to remain flexible. What’s most important is the safe birth of your baby.
An experienced midwife is a must have if you are a candidate for home birth. Choose someone who is close to where you live and is comfortable with home birth. Your choice of midwife is so important so don’t rush the decision. Your midwife will have a backup doctor just in case of emergency.
A doula usually works very closely with a midwife. She cares and supports you through pregnancy, labour, childbirth and into the first few weeks of parenthood. She will also help you establish breastfeeding. However, a doula doesn’t have medical training and shouldn’t ever replace medical caregivers.
A home birth does require careful planning and some failsafe back up options should anything go wrong. You will need to map out the fastest route to the hospital and have transport available should you need to get there quickly.
Do your research and read up on other stories from women who have experienced home births, both the good and the bad. There are a couple of South African based organisations that specialise in home birth supports. Visit www.homebirth.org.za for more information.
Other articles you may be interested in:
Tips for a stress-free childbirth
Heading back to work after maternity leave
Pregnancy and sun tanning
Everything you need to know about pregnancy marks
Surviving morning sickness