Throughout the industrialized world, countries recognize homebirth with a skilled midwife as a superior way of birthing. In fact, the countries with the lowest infant and maternal mortality rates are those where over 80% of the births are attended by midwives, the majority of these at home or in free-standing birth centers. In the U.S only about 1% of mothers plan a homebirth and our high cesarean and infant/maternal mortality rates reflect this. There are currently 49 countries that have better infant and maternal mortality rates than we do in our highly industrialized birth culture. The World Health Organization states the cesarean rate should never rise above 15%, we are at about 35% as a nation and many hospitals are well over 50%. The rising mortality and cesarean rates are a direct result of our poor health/diets and desire to intervene and medicalize the normal physiologic birth process.
At home, birth is allowed to unfold as nature intended. Because a woman feels safe in her home and is not disturbed by unfamiliar hospital staff and procedures, the hormones of labor are fully capable of moving her labor along. When a woman is exposed to bright lights, unnecessary activity and strangers performing intimate exams the release of both oxytocin and endorphins are inhibited by the overproduction of stress hormones. This slows the progress of labor and intensifies the feelings of pain. It is not uncommon for a woman's contractions to slow upon arrival at the hospital. This may lead to augmentation with pitocin, a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin. Pitocin has been associated with poor fetal heart rates possibly due to the strength and frequency of the contractions it causes. This apparent stress on the baby often leads to a c-section. Furthermore, the intensity of pitocin-induced contractions leaves the majority of women seeking an epidural. Epidurals are associated with maternal fever, and poor fetal heart rates which again leads many OBs to recommend a c-section.
In choosing a midwife attended homebirth, you are avoiding any unnecessary interventions and the complications they often lead to. While at times it becomes prudent to transport to the hospital from home and even benefit from some of the above named interventions, this occurs very little in intended homebirths. Most importantly, the decision to intervene is made in conjunction with the laboring woman and her partner. Full explanation of the benefits and the risks of any intervention are given allowing women to be active participants in their birth care. Nothing is done to you or your baby without your consent. When birthing at home women take full responsibility for their own excellent health care, hiring a midwife to guide and support the process while ensuring the safety of both mom and baby.
Midwife means "with woman". Midwives are patient, allowing labor and birth to proceed naturally. There are no timelines on your labor. Likewise, midwives are comfortable with pregnancies that endure well past their due dates, knowing that most healthy pregnancies will in fact last about 42 weeks. Inductions for being "late" are virtually unheard of.
The practice of homebirth is very supportive of mother/infant bonding, and indeed midwives strive to protect this most intimate time allowing for the creation and strengthening of the mother-baby dyad and unification of the entire family. Babies remain in constant contact with mom from the moment of birth onward. If any assistance is given to aid in baby's breathing it is done on the bed next to mom, where she may touch and speak to her baby. This way baby senses the love and safety of the mother as he has known for the nine months prior.
A growing body of evidence shows that immediately cutting the umbilical cord denies the new baby vital life-blood. The blood remaining in the cord is the baby's and this contains necessary oxygen for easing the transition to breathing on his own, and babies who are allowed delayed cord clamping very rarely need assistance breathing. In addition, it has been shown that the amount of iron contained in this blood is necessary for building an adequate store to prevent anemia in the first year of life. Current hospital practice mandates cutting the cord immediately upon delivery. At home, the cord is left intact sometimes as long as two hours. Most typically it is cut shortly after delivery of the placenta. This again illustrates a midwife's respect for and trust in the physiologic process of birth and the wisdom inherent in this.
Midwives believe in every woman and baby's right to breastfeed. Midwives provide a great deal of support as the breastfeeding relationship grows. Because midwives remain in attendance for several hours postpartum, and return several times in the first week there is ample opportunity for breastfeeding counseling as needed.
Midwives are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is no answering service or other barrier to access. This ensures that women are able to get their needs met in a timely fashion, often without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.
If you are curious about the additional benefits of homebirth and are wondering if it is the right choice for you, I encourage you to interview several midwives, ensuring the right fit for your family in this very important time of your life. Please feel free to contact me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-400-1217.