The Pros and Cons of Home Birth VS Hospital Birth

Wondering if a home birth or a hospital birth is the best option for your labor and delivery? We lay out the pros and cons of each, so you can make the most informed decision for your family.

Consider Your Personal Pros and Cons for Home Birth VS Hospital Birth

As you begin to plan your birth experience, you may be wondering if a home birth is right for you and what the benefits, pros, and cons are between having a home birth vs hospital birth. Depending on your pregnancy situation, your healthcare provider may strongly recommend planning on a hospital birth – particularly if your pregnancy is considered high-risk, you are expecting multiples, or there are complications during your prenatal journey. In those situations, it’s important to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of both you and your baby. This often means giving birth in a medical facility with many licensed healthcare providers, equipment, and interventions readily available to assist in your labor and delivery to ensure the safest and least stressful outcomes as possible.

With that in mind, if you have been given the green light by your healthcare provider to choose your birth setting, there are many reasons why some women may opt to deliver their little one at home. This includes:

  • Wanting to deliver in a familiar, private environment with as many or as few support people – potentially including your other children – nearby.
  • Wanting to deliver in an environment with as few medical interventions as possible and the availability of labor support devices purchased or rented ahead of time, such as birthing balls, pools, and/or bathtubs.
  • Lack of easy access to a hospital with a maternity wing, often due to logistics (such as transportation, living far away, or dissatisfaction with nearby hospitals) or financial concerns (limited or no insurance coverage or lower costs).
  • Desire to use a midwife and/or for more freedom and control during labor and delivery.
  • Cultural and/or religious considerations

Whatever reason you may be considering a home birth instead of a hospital birth, it’s important to remember that there may be situations that arise which necessitate the need to finish labor at a medical facility to ensure the safest possible situation for you and your baby. For example, if labor isn’t progressing after many hours, if your baby is in distress or breech, if your blood pressure becomes very high or there is excessive bleeding, or if you reach a point where you wish to have stronger pain medication, you should plan to be transported to the hospital for the interventions necessary and to finish delivering your little one. Though these emergencies are certainly not guaranteed to occur, it is important to be prepared for any situation and to have a back-up birth plan in place in the event that you are taken to the hospital.

How to Prepare for a Home Birth

The most crucial aspect of planning your home birth is selecting the right healthcare providers. Oftentimes, this is a certified midwife or certified nurse-midwife, but can also be an OB/GYN who performs home births. Some parents-to-be also wish to have a doula present during labor and delivery, as well as a lactation consultant after birth to help initiate breastfeeding. Ensure that all care providers are certified or licensed as required, and have plenty of experience in home birth. Working with them throughout your pregnancy journey and creating a birth plan together can help them support the labor and delivery experience you desire while helping you understand what to expect.

If you plan to have labor support devices at home, be sure to order them for purchase or rent as soon as possible to ensure their availability ahead of your due date. Some items, like birthing pools or tubs, usually require assembly, so make sure your partner or another support person can pitch in to ensure it is operational in the days or weeks before. Other items, such as birthing balls, tarps or plastic sheets, towels, gloves, and postpartum essentials (think maxi pads, peri bottles, and postpartum underwear), should also be purchased ahead of time, so you can rest assured that everything will be ready when you (and your baby!) are.

As mentioned, having a back-up plan in place is important in case of any unexpected situations that may require a hospital transfer. When having a home birth vs hospital birth, vital signs like pulse, blood pressure, and your little one’s heart rate won’t be continuously monitored as they are in a medical facility. Understand what will constitute an emergent situation, the risks involved, and what notes to include on your birth plan if delivery unexpectedly occurs in a hospital setting. You may also consider renting a hospital-grade breast pump ahead of time so you can begin initiating your milk supply as soon as possible after delivery – even if your baby encounters early latching challenges or doesn’t start nursing right away.

Finally, selecting a pediatrician ahead of time is important when having a home birth vs hospital birth. This is because there are usually pediatricians on staff at the hospital, who will check on your baby immediately after birth and before you’re cleared to go home. This allows the pediatrician to review their vitals and ensure there are no concerns or complications. If you will be having your baby at home, it’s crucial to visit a pediatrician with your newborn as soon as possible in the days after birth to ensure he or she is healthy and thriving!

There is certainly a lot to consider when deciding between home birth vs hospital birth, but these decisions are yours to make and advocate for! Your birth team – including healthcare professionals, family members, spouses or partners, and other support people – are in your corner and can help you make the right decisions for you and your growing baby. Good luck, mama – Medela is here to support you every step of the way.

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