Are Home Births Better for the Baby?
Home births are a fairly recent medical trend where pregnant women, instead of going to a hospital or similar medical facility, give birth at their homes instead.
In today’s developed countries, women are typically expected to give birth in a carefully controlled medical environment. However, as recently as the past century home births were the norm, not the exception. Before the easy availability and relative cheapness of medical attention, most people were born in a home under the supervision of family and often a specially trained midwife. Even today, in many parts of the word home births are extremely common.
The trend to return to home birthing stems from the idea that this is a more natural and comfortable method than modern alternatives. Proponents claim that they are better for both the mother and the newborn baby, both physically and psychologically.
To an extent, this has roots in truth. Probably the most advantageous part of home births is that they occur, well, at home. When a women is at home, she generally feels much more comfortable and in control. The familiar surroundings and knowledge the woman has of her home can greatly reduce stress and anxiety before and during labor, when a woman can feel extremely vulnerable. This is important because extreme stress can cause many health problems, and potentially complicate a birth. In a home, a woman in labor can be in a place of her choosing surrounded by friends and relatives.
This is a significant contrast to the stereotypical medical setting, which is sterile and alien. People often feel uncomfortable in hospitals, in unfamiliar territory and surrounded by strangers. Additionally, access to friends and family can be tightly controlled during the labor process.
However, it’s unclear whether this is enough to rule definitively that home births are better for the baby or the mother. While it’s true that medical settings can be uncomfortable, a good hospital will know how to minimize this feeling. Additionally, hospitals have many other advantages, including access to a variety of medical equipment and drugs as well as a fully trained staff available should anything go wrong.
In most cases, choosing a home birth over a hospital birth probably won’t make that much of a difference. Home births are usually perfectly safe, especially if a professional midwife or two is present to assist in the labor process and handle minor complications. This method can also be somewhat cheaper.
However, people shouldn’t hesitate to choose a hospital birth, either. Hospital births haven’t been shown to be damaging or dangerous in any significant way, and they can be much safer if a complication occurs in which the health and life of mother and baby are in danger.