The idea of a home birth sounds nice of course, especially for those who are nervous around hospitals and understandably so these days. Who wouldn’t prefer being surrounded by their own furniture, family photos, and familiar belongings instead of an IV, sterile walls, and the beeping sounds of machinery? While labor is one of the most natural things in the world, the hospital feels like the least natural setting for it. So it’s no wonder that many women opt for a home birth. Here’s the thing: Well over a quarter of first-time moms who try a home birth wind up transferring to a hospital. It’s not always seamless in comparison to hospital births.
When we think of a complicated delivery, we may think of risks to the baby. Those are very real, but maternal mortality is also a big issue in this country. In fact, the CDC reports that women in the United States are more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications than women in any other developed country. Nearly 700 women still die each year in the US from such complications. That’s just one of the reasons organizations like Merck for Mothers was created. It specifically works to strengthen healthcare services for moms in underserved communities and make childbirth safer. Ironically, many of us may grow up with the idea that pregnancy and labor are a breeze, never knowing of the real dangers involved until it happens to someone we know, or ourselves. A home birth can be nice, but it can also be idealistic, and bringing a new life into this world is no time to brush over realities. We spoke with Dr. Lorie Johnson (pictured below), a board-certified OB/GYN and the owner of Just For You Women’s Healthcare, a private practice in Atlanta, about some of the realities surrounding home births.
Why do some women want a home birth?
If you’re about to have your first child and have never explored the pros and cons of a home versus hospital birth, you may have limited knowledge of home births. Hospital births we’re all mostly familiar with – we’ve seen enough movies and known enough friends and loved ones who’ve had them. So why do women go for a home birth? Some want a natural birth, meaning there is no medical intervention such as pain medication or labor induction. For some women, it’s simply a matter of cost, as hospital births can be very expensive. Vaginal birth with insurance in a hospital can cost around $5,000. Without insurance, it gets much higher. And when you move into C-sections, the price can triple. In some cases, religion is the motivator behind a home birth, and at other times, the mother may not have access to a hospital – or at least not to one that she likes.