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So What Exactly Happens At A Home Birth?

by Amelia on June 3, 2008
category: Labor and Delivery,Pregnancy

homebirth.jpg What is it like? I just experienced going to a home birth as a birth assistant a few weeks ago and it was awesome. It felt so normal and natural for the mom to labor and birth in her own home with her other children nearby. As a supporter and advocate of mother centered birth I have always been excited about home birth and the idea that women should birth their babies where they feel most comfortable. For some women, it is their home. They feel more comfortable and safe in their own familiar environments. They don’t have to worry about poking and prodding from strangers and can simply move from room to room as they feel during labor. Once the birth is over mom can shower in her own shower and then go to her own bed with her baby. So easy! After seeing it firsthand I can understand in a new way why mothers choose home birth.

Where does the mom birth her baby? Wherever she chooses. Midwives have a list of supplies for the mom to acquire before the birth and one of them is usually a clear vinyl shower curtain that can be laid on top of the bed or floor to protect the surface. If a mom thinks she will want to birth in her bed she will put on a set of sheets, the vinyl shower curtain, and then another set of clean sheets on top of the shower curtain. The shower curtain protects the mattress and once the birth is over all the midwives need to do is take off the sheets and shower curtain used to birth on and throw them in the washer and then mom has some clean sheets to lay down on. A lot of moms will birth their babies next to the bed in a squatting position or in the living room. Some midwives have birth stools for the mom to sit on while she pushes the baby out. Midwives will talk with the mom either when she arrives for the birth or ahead of time about where the mom thinks she will birth the baby. If the mom has a good idea where she will want to birth the baby then the midwives will set up their equipment nearby so it will be convenient to get to during labor and birth.

Is it messy? Is there a lot of blood? Sure it is a little messy but the mess is easily contained on chux pads (disposable underpads). The mom usually provides a few packages of chux pads for the birth. As a birth assistant I helped throw away used ones and have a new one nearby to place under mom to catch any fluids. Unless there is a major complication the fluids are taken care of quickly and thrown away into a garbage bag set up ahead of time. Part of the job of the midwife and birth assistant is to clean up any messes. We don’t want the mom to be worrying about that while she is trying to have her baby! Ammonia and hydrogen peroxide do wonders at getting out stains.

What happens to the placenta? After the birth the midwife will inspect the placenta and make sure that it came out in one piece. She will look for signs of calcification and make sure it was healthy. Doctors do this in the hospital as well. If you ever get a chance to check one out it is pretty fascinating–especially when you see the outline of the amniotic sac attached to the placenta and you can see where your baby was living all those months!

A lot of families keep their placentas and freeze them until they are ready to use them. How, you ask? Placentas are very rich in nutrients and many choose to bury them in the ground and plant a tree on top of them. Since placentas are what gave the baby life in the womb many find it sentimental to plant a tree which also symbolizes life. Some women eat a part of the placenta and some have even dried theirs to take in capsule form to help prevent postpartum depression.

Families that don’t want to use their placenta can give it to the midwife to dispose of.

How many people are there? However many people the mother wants. Every mother is different. Some like their whole family nearby in the house, some only their husband. The midwife will bring along either and assistant, apprentice, and/or a back up midwife. Many moms will also hire a doula to help her cope with the pain of labor.

What about the eye drops and vitamin K given to babies in the hospital? The midwife can give these too but many families choose not to. The eye drops are given to babies to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhea or chlamydia) from harming the baby. If women know they don’t have an STD then there is no need for the drops. You can also choose not to have them in the hospital. Vitamin K is given to help prevent any blood clotting problems in babies and it is very rare for a baby to have any problems with this. Usually midwives will talk with their clients ahead of time, explain the benefits and risks of these procedures, and have their clients do their own research.

Doesn’t a pediatrician need to examine the baby? Many midwives will have the mom take the baby to the pediatrician/health care provider the mother chooses soon after the birth to have the baby looked at. The pediatrician can perform the PKU test on the baby.

These are only a few questions that I have heard when it comes to home birth. I know there are more out there! If you have any questions you always wondered about when it comes to home birth shout it out and let’s talk about it!

If you ever get a chance to help another mom during a labor, be it at a home birth, birth center, or hospital–it really is a fabulous thing. Examples of helping could be watching older siblings while mom is laboring, preparing a meal for the family and/or birth team, coordinating meals for the family after the birth, shopping with mom for her birth kit for her home birth, or providing labor support. Helping a mother bring her precious baby into the world is a truly rewarding experience–no matter what way you help.

10 Responses to So What Exactly Happens At A Home Birth?

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Brittany
    June 4, 2008 @ 7:51 am

    All the questions I was to afraid to ask!

    Really interesting post, and I am just thrown by the planting of the placenta under a new tree…I have never heard for that, it is totally neat.

    I wish I wasn’t so much of an 11th hour worrier, so I could try this out one day. I am so anxious about potential problems, as my first two spent 48 hours in NICU, that the worry is just consuming.

    If I could work past that, then this would definitely be an option for me. I would love to be at home with my husband and kids, and not stuck in a hospital away from them and sad for a few days.

  • Comment by Amelia
    June 4, 2008 @ 8:54 am

    Brittany–I can understand your concerns about having a home birth. I would probably be worried about that too! It is best for mom to birth where she feels is best. We have had some mild issues with every birth and I think we were where we needed to be each time. The first two were born in the hospital and the third at a birth center. After assisting a few more births I might be ready to have a home birth.

    We have the placenta from our third in the freezer and as soon as I dig out my garden spot in the backyard I am going to bury it in the garden. I’m excited about doing that.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Christine
    June 4, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

    I was so incredibly scared about having a home birth for my 3rd child. And to be honest, I now wouldn’t give birth ANY other way. It was incredible! I will say that having the right midwife makes a world of difference. :)

    Oh and the placenta thing… I did something I never thought I’d ever do… I had mine capsulized and took them daily for quite awhile after I gave birth. I’ve always had a history of severe PPD and taking capsulized placenta as well as B-Complex, flax seed oil, and omega3 really kept my PPD at bay this time around. Another something I’d do next time! :D

  • Comment by Amelia
    June 4, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

    Christine-I have read that having it capsulized really helps with PPD but I haven’t known anyone who had done it. I think that is so cool that you did it and that it helped you! I did briefly consider having it done this last time because I had PPD after my 2nd baby but I think we figured out that it was probably due more to the circumstances of having 2 babies close together and a very high needs premature baby.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Vered
    June 4, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

    Interesting info – thanks. I opted for medicated hospital births with both my kids and had a very good experience, but I was lucky. I know that many women are treated poorly and feel that their wished are not respected when they deliver at the hospital.

  • Comment by Amanda
    June 4, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

    I find this so fascinating. I now understand why more moms are considering this an option. For me, I am still considering a Birth Center for the next one. My friends already think that is nuts. :)

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Evelyn Lim
    June 5, 2008 @ 12:21 am

    What an interesting article. It must be a most amazing experience for you. It’s too late for me anyway because I’ve already got two kids and intend to stop. It would have been nice to know about this, way back!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by amelia
    June 5, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

    Vered-I’m glad you had such a great experience! You are right, it really is unfortunate when women are not respected and listened to when it comes to their desires for birth.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Brittany
    June 6, 2008 @ 7:23 am

    This post is still sticking with me today, and after reading what Vered wrote, I have to say I agree. It’s not that my hospital birth was bad, I mean, the post partum private room I requested in advance three months prior to BOTH my births never being “available”, that was bad…but the birth itself wasn’t bad, it was just scary and out of my hands really.

    I just wish I could have been more involved, and more able to get my voice heard.

    This is why a home birth is more appealing to me now, it would happen on my own turf, and my body could be in charge of running the show for once, not a nurse who pops in randomly.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Alicia
    July 1, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

    This was great! I am 5 months along and of all people my husband threw out the idea of home birth. I was shocked and so excited, we are doing all kinds of internet reading about home birth and I just love this article.
    I think that I will opt for the midwife to take the placenta, but we are planning on birthing our second child at home.

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