The home birth headache
If your partner feels that she might want a home birth away from the medicalised environment of the hospital with its often clinical lighting and cold-seeming corridors and fixtures fittings, you are not alone, increasing numbers of women feel that a home birth is what they want when it comes time to deliver.
But what do you do if, as the partner, you’re less comfortable with the idea? What if you have concerns regarding the safety of home birth, both for your partner and your baby? What if you don’t want the extra responsibility and burden of having the baby delivered at home?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to these questions. Instead the only way forward is to be educated and to discuss your concerns calmly and openly with your partner while also listening considerately to her views.
To support this process, we look at some of the issues below.
Considering the home birth process
If your partner is considering a home birth there is everything to be gained by actively engaging in the question of whether it is suitable for the two of you and inevitably this involves carefully weighing up the pros and cons.
One place you can begin this journey of discovery is at a home birth group where you can meet other parents-to-be in your situation as well as those who wish to share their experiences of what home birth was like for them.
However, bear in mind that some home birth groups might not be geared towards presenting a complete picture as they are likely to be biased towards home birth as the best option: there is perhaps more value to be had in sharing in the stories of people who have had positive and uncomplicated experiences alongside those who have experienced some of the downsides and complications that can arise from having a home birth.
Don’t allow yourself to meekly accept your partner’s wishes either. Although she is the major decision maker in this area, it is your job to stay strong and supportive through the birth while holding a great deal of the uncertainty and anxiety that inevitably accompanies life’s most important event. If you feel that you lack the strength to do this at home, without the backup of immediate emergency medical help, it may be that home birth is not for you and your partner: you may not be carrying and delivering the baby yourself, but in this regard your perspective really does matter, it may even be critical.
What science says about the risks
According to a major English study of more than 65,000 pregnancies, serious complications are seen in only 4.3 births out of every 1,000 home births, which indicates that overall, home births are as safe as those which take place in obstetric settings.
However, it is worth noting that this 4.3 figure only applies to births that are classified as low risk – for example, mothers with a healthy BMI and no history of obstetric difficulty. Once the study considered other factors such as complications at the beginning of labour, the risks of home birth were considerably higher, while mothers experiencing their first pregnancy are, on average, twice as likely to experience complications with home birth when compared to those who have already had children.
Furthermore, choosing home birth is itself no guarantee of keeping out of hospital. For example, 45% of first-time mothers giving birth at home were transferred to hospital before or after delivery. For women who have previously given birth, this number dropped to 12%.
Whatever your decision, the researchers concluded that the data supports the idea of women having the choice of home v hospital birth. It is now up to you to engage with your partner through the process of discussion and deliberation so that you can make an educated, confident and mutual plan for the birth of your child.