Other than location, how does home birth differ from hospital birth?

Home birth is not just about the location in which you will give birth. Care with a home birth midwife looks much different than care with a hospital based provider. Clients who choose home birth are choosing autonomous care. Patients who choose hospital birth are usually subjected to the standard tests and procedures no matter their personal health or beliefs.

With a home birth midwife, your prenatal visits should last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Your midwife will get to know you personally, and this relationship will help her customize your care to your individual needs. You will still receive standard health care: blood pressure checks, urine tests, lab work (maybe outsourced), fundal height checks, checking fetal heart tones, etc. You may choose to opt out of certain tests or procedures like cervical checks, use of fetal doppler, or the gestational diabetes test, or may you choose an alternative method for the procedure: jelly beans for diabetes testing or fetoscope for checking fetal heart tones.

Most midwives also take a holistic approach to maternal care. Your midwife will make sure you are doing well emotionally and physically. Another difference is instead of prescribing pharmaceutical drugs, she may recommend herbs, teas, tinctures, or other holistic approaches that pair well with pregnancy and birth. A midwife still carries standard medication for emergencies in birth.

Your midwife will expect that you take on the responsibility to understand common tests and procedures performed and whether or not you want them for you and your baby, whereas an obstetrician may assume that you will want all tests/procedures and perform them automatically. Your home birth care really is personalized in so many ways!

You will see the same midwife throughout your pregnancy and she will be the midwife at your birth, pending extenuating circumstances (although this is not common). This one-on-one approach for every prenatal helps to build the relationship of trust between you and your midwife and your midwife learns what is normal for you as an individual. With an obstetrician, you may see the same doctor for prenatals but end up with a different doctor when you arrive in labor.

Understand that there is no epidural option for home birth. There are many coping techniques to deal with the pain of childbirth, but it will be up to you to research, learn about them, and pick the technique that is right for you.

Finally, home birth is a mindset. You are choosing autonomy. When you choose to give birth at home, you are choosing to take personal responsibility for a healthy pregnancy, labor, and birth. Your midwife can help guide you through the process, but you are choosing to commit to learn how to best take care of yourself, how to cope with natural labor and birth, and which test and procedures are right for you and your baby. Your midwife is there to answer your questions and monitor your health, not to make your choices for you.

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