While only 3-5% 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 midwife find out the best solution for you.
If you are thinking of having a home birth you need to ensure your midwife is experienced. 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.
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
For a healthy woman and a pregnancy without complications, the risk of something going wrong is usually quite low. However, there is the risk that if something goes wrong, you may be far away from the medical intervention that is needed. You will also need to make sure that your LMC is happy to attend a home birth. Some mums-to-be may consider the lack of medication, such as epidurals, a negative aspect also.