Home, Sweet Home
For some women, there’s no place they’d rather have their baby. Is this wise?
As a labor and delivery nurse in Illinois, Courtney Gustin, 30, has helped bring many babies into the world. But during her pregnancy with her third child last year, she decided to give birth at home. “Working in the hospital, I saw so many things that were harmful to women and babies, including unnecessary labor inductions and Cesarean sections, as well as a lack of regard for women’s desire not to be separated from their babies after they are born,” Gustin says.
None of that occurred during her home delivery. “It was a very peaceful water birth with two midwives, a friend who is a nurse and my husband present,” Gustin says. “My older kids were in the house with our au pair and came into the room shortly after the birth.”
Only about 1 percent of American women give birth at home, but the option has been getting a lot of attention lately, particularly after the 2008 release of The Business of Being Born, a movie created by former TV host Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein that advocates strongly for home birth. The desire to avoid Csections and other interventions is another factor. Anecdotal evidence, including an increase in the demand for birthing pools, suggests the number of home births is growing, especially among highly educated women.
The Perks of Staying Home
When a woman gives birth at home, she has more control over her labor and delivery, including who is present, how to position herself and whether to resort to medical interventions. She also may feel safer, physically and emotionally, and more comfortable in a familiar environment.
Kristie Wyndham, 43, a mother of three in Oakland, Calif., says her two home births afforded her freedoms she did not enjoy when she had her first child in a hospital. She kept moving around during labor, trying different positions. About an hour before delivery, she went into a labor tub set up in her bedroom. “Sometimes I felt I had to flip over fast. I could do that in the water,” Wyndham says. “I couldn’t have in a hospital bed.”
Proponents say that giving birth at home allows women the time they need to let labor unfold naturally. Twelve hours into her labor with her second child earlier this year, Rachael Dadabo, 27, who lives in Elgin, Ill., says her contractions slowed and dilation stopped because her baby’s head was slightly out of position. “My doula and husband helped me get into a position called the abdominal lift-and-tuck to help my baby’s head reposition correctly,” she recalls. “This worked very quickly—a few hours later my daughter was born. If this had happened in a hospital I would probably have been given Pitocin or offered the option of a C-section for failure to progress. But all my body needed was a position change and time.