The Risks with Having a Home Birth

Color image of a loving husband supporting and coaching his wife through an intense home birth.

Home births are one of the most hotly debated parenting topics in the world today. Type “home birth” into the internet and what do you find? A slew of articles, blogs, and videos on how home birth was the best thing someone you don’t know ever did or how having a home birth landed their newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit. Sifting through all of the information out there would take you a month and possibly a lot of decaf coffee, but what it comes down to is understanding the risks associated with having a home birth. But, never fear, we’ve done some of the work for you!

Below are three frequently encountered risks of giving birth at home as well as some of the reasons women choose this birth plan option.

Risk 1: Delayed care in the event of an emergency

Your newborn’s safety – and your own – are of utmost concern during a home birth, not you having a fairy tale experience. Many things can potentially go wrong when giving birth outside of a fully-equipped hospital. According to a 2015 study out of Oregon Health and Science University, planned out-of-hospital births are associated with a higher risk of perinatal death than hospital births. The vast majority of soon-to-be-parents develop a Plan B with their midwives and homebirth caregivers, but issues can always arise, even when a pregnancy is first deemed as low-risk. Problems during labor can result in your child experiencing health problems for the rest of their life.

“Research is crucial when it comes to deciding who will help you deliver your child.”

Risk 2: Lack of experience of homebirth caregivers

Research is crucial when it comes to deciding who will help you deliver your child, according to Parents.com, but it can be overwhelming for soon-to-be parents to check the credentials of their midwives. Some midwives are not registered nurses or have worked in a traditional medical setting; for some parents, these credentials may be nice-to-haves rather than need-to-haves. No matter where you fall in the credentials and experience debate, it’s something you must consider.

Risk 3: Issues with the mother’s health that could adversely affect the child

It’s not recommended for women with diabetes, a chronic health condition, or preeclampsia to have a home birth, the Mayo Clinic noted. Birth puts stress on the body, and mothers with certain health or pregnancy condition can be at risk during or after labor.

Reason 1: Personalized care

According to blogger Amy West in an op-ed for The Huffington Post, the biggest benefit she experienced regarding having a home birth was receiving personalized care from her midwife. West’s midwife walked her through every part of the birthing process and made sure to understand every part of West’s medical history, helping her to feel comfortable and positive about the experience.

It’s a cliche that the father waits in the waiting room with eager family members to await the arrival of a new bundle of joy, but it’s true that very few people are allowed in the room when a child is born in the hospital. Many parents who choose a home birth do so to ensure their family and friends are involved and feel welcome.

a dad holding his newborn baby
One reason parents choose a home birth is to make sure close family members are able to share the experience.

Reason 2: Sharing the birth experience with family and friends in a warm, comfortable environment

It’s a cliche that the father waits in the waiting room with eager family members to await the arrival of a new bundle of joy, but it’s true that very few people are allowed in the room when a child is born in the hospital. Many parents who choose a home birth do so to ensure their family and friends are involved and feel welcome.


Reason 3: Distrust of the medical system

Some parents feel uncomfortable at hospitals, experiencing feelings of frustration after their OBs leave after talking with them for fifteen minutes and being concerned with stories of medical professionals jumping to perform cesarean sections at a moment’s notice. There is something real behind this concern – that is, the C-section part. The OSHU researchers found that risk of C-section was nearly 25 percent in the hospital setting, compared to less than 5 percent in the planned out-of-hospital setting. The Birthplace Study 2011 from the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) also found a lower risk of having a C-section when choosing a home birth, according to the U.K.’s National Childhood Trust.

Before you decide on a home birth, make sure you talk to your OB about you and your child’s potential health risks and whether this particular birth option is right for your family. There are pros and cons to both side of the issue, and so doing your research is essential. While it’s your choice which option you choose, remember that it needs to not only be right for you and your family, but for your baby’s health and overall well-being when they first enter the world.