Approximately 25,000 births occur in the home every year in the United States, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Deciding where and how to deliver your baby can be a complicated decision that no mother-to-be takes lightly. Although there are several benefits to home birth, it also can be risky to both mother and child.
Ashley, 30, delivered her first three children in a hospital setting. After watching a documentary about home birthing and doing her own research about it, she says she became swept up in the romanticized vision of an at-home labor and selected the option for delivering her fourth child. The birth went smoothly, and Ashley says she felt empowered by the experience. So, when she became pregnant with her fifth child, she again decided to give birth at home.
Her labor began in the middle of the night and progressed quickly. It took 25 minutes for Ashley to push out her son’s head, which she says signaled to her that something was wrong. The baby became lodged in her pubic bone, a birthing complication called shoulder dystocia, and Ashley’s midwife and her assistant worked frantically for several minutes to release him. Once the baby was born, he was blue and lifeless, and the midwife’s assistant could not detect a heartbeat.
“When I held him in my arms, I was just telling him that I loved him and that I was sorry,” she says. “I was just sorry for what I had done, my decision.”
Onstage with The Doctors, Ashley reveals that her son, Zinn, survived and is a healthy 17-month-old. She and the family’s pediatrician are keeping a close eye on him for signs of any long-term damage. She says although she’s currently not planning to have any more children, if she were to become pregnant again, she would not choose an at-home delivery.
OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Ashton says the debate between hospital birth and home birth can be very emotionally charged, and home birth is not for everyone. According to the Mayo Clinic, women with a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, hypertension or seizures, or who have previously had a C-section are not good candidates for home birth. Also, home births are not recommended for women who develop a pregnancy complication, such as preeclampsia, who are less than 37 weeks along or more than 41 weeks pregnant, or those carrying multiples.
Proponents of home birthing say the option allows for immediate bonding between mother and child, provides a more comfortable environment for delivery, freedom to move around, and can be much less costly than a hospital delivery.
Dr. Ashton says mothers-to-be should make sure to weigh all their options and understand all the risks and benefits to each before selecting their birthing plan.
Elizabeth Bachner, a midwife and clinical director for GraceFull Birthing, explains the steps she takes to ensure patient safety during home births: