When Jenny Hill was pregnant with her first daughter 12 years ago, she toured the prospective hospital where she would give birth and began to have doubts on what she wanted from her delivery experience. The setting felt too clinical and constrained for what she personally wanted for the birth of her first child.
Before that moment, Jenny had been the one who wanted to opt for a hospital birth while her husband thought they should have a home birth. It was ironic because both Jenny and her brother had both been born at home. But once she toured the hospital, her opinions dramatically changed. “I really wanted to be able to move freely during my birth and not be tied to machines,” Hill said.
She began doing her homework on the process, visiting different nurse midwives who could deliver her baby. She finally settled with Midwives Cooperative, “a group of midwives working together to provide family centered maternity care for birth in the comfort of your own home.”
“The practice was phenomenal and provided so much support that I needed. They were a natural and comforting presence during my pregnancy and during the birthing process,” Hill said.
Hill opted for a water birth, which she said really helped with managing her pain during contractions, especially with the birth of her first daughter, which took 21 hours. Benefits of a water birth include more efficient uterine contractions and better blood circulation, said the American Pregnancy Association. Although it was a long and painful process, Hill was very glad to have had a home birth because her recovery was seamless and fast. Hill believes that had she been at a hospital, it may not have ended up being a natural birth. Hill opted for a home birth for her second daughter as well, and it was very fast and easy.
“I had a music playlist tailored for what would relax me most. We kept the house lights dim,” Hill said. “I didn’t have to wait for a provider as my midwife was constantly there offering support. I was never hooked up to an IV, and I was able to move around a lot including outside for fresh air.”
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), about 0.9% of U.S. births are at home, with one-fourth of those being unplanned. Many women choose to select home births because they want to give birth as naturally as possible without medical intervention, want to be home in a comfortable setting surrounded by family or friends, or dissatisfaction with medical care.
A 2014 study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health reported that among low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies. Interventions can include labor induction, pain medications and electronic fetal heart monitoring. Home births have much lower results of cesarean sections and vaginal tearing as well.
For Gainesville mom Bre Gilmer, disappointment with her first child’s birthing process in a hospital setting is what prompted her to consider a home birth when she was pregnant with her second. Since she was due in April 2021, the COVID-19 restrictions in medical facilities also played a part in her decision. “The restrictions due to COVID-19 did not make me feel comfortable, and I believe it is so important to feel comfortable especially if your goal is unmedicated,” Gilmer said.
Gilmer had both a nurse midwife and a doula— a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth, according to DONA International. After her contractions began steadily in the middle of the night, her midwife and doula headed straight to her home. As they prepared her birthing pool, Gilmer binge watched “The Office” while having contractions on a birthing ball. Also opting for a water birth, she attests that the hot water made the contractions more bearable.
“I was 10cm by 10 a.m., but my body was not ready to push. I changed positions and rooms quite a bit. I moved from the pool, to my shower, to my bed. Around 1 p.m., my body started to push by itself,” Gilmer said. “I got back into my pool around 2 p.m., and my body pushed my baby out within five minutes by itself. I had no tearing. It was absolutely incredible. We immediately played music by my favorite, Taylor Swift, and all cried tears of joy together.”
The Mayo Clinic has several recommendations for those considering planned home births.
Ensure that you’re working with a certified nurse midwife for your home birth with access to a local hospital and consultation from doctors or specialists at that hospital. Consider hiring a doula who can give extra care for you and your newborn. Create a specific birth plan working closely with your midwife and close family members taking special consideration with any supplies you will need at your home. Make sure that you have access to specific medical supplies onsite needed for you and your baby. Finally, make sure that you have immediate access to a hospital that can provide emergency care quickly if needed. Ideally your health care provider will already have made arrangements with a local hospital should you need to be transferred quickly.
Unfortunately, there are some instances where the ACOG does not recommend a home birth which includes being pregnant with multiples, a prior C-section or breech position of the baby (when the baby is positioned feet first). According to the ACOG, there are risks associated with not delivering at a hospital or birthing center including a slightly higher risk of infant mortality and a greater risk of neurological damage or seizures. Taking the proper steps like working with a certified health care professional and having a backup plan for hospital transfer helps to reduce these risks.
For moms who have had successful home births, the experience can be unforgettable.
“Being able to listen to your body and move freely is so important. I could drink water and eat food as I pleased. It was just so much more enjoyable,” Gilmer said. “If you’re thinking about it, and if you’re able to, absolutely do it. I would do it all over again. Find a midwife that you trust, find a doula that empowers you, and trust the process! It is so worth it!”