7 Biggest Myths About Home Births ... Debunked

Thinking about giving birth at home? Then you're probably heard the rumors going around -- everything from how expensive it is to give birth outside a hospital to how your home just isn't sanitary enough for a newborn to thrive. Before you ix-nay the idea of a home birth, though, read on to understand what's fact and what's fiction.


Myth #1: Midwives don't have as much training as doctors.
The Reality:
"Some people think all a midwife does is come in and sprinkle the mother with herbs," says Mairi Breen Rothman, a certified nurse midwife who has a practice in the metro Washington, DC area and also serves on the board of directors for The American College of Nurse-Midwives. "We use what's useful in modern technology coupled with the TLC of midwifery." In fact, comparing an OB/GYN to a certified nurse-midwife is like comparing electricians with plumbers, Rothman says. "OBs are surgeons who specialize in complications. Midwives are experts at normal birth."

Myth #2: Delivering at home is more dangerous for you and for baby.
The Reality:
Surprisingly, "a lot of good data has shown that for low-risk moms, home births are just as safe as delivering in a hospital," says Rothman. For instance, one study evaluated 530,000 births in The Netherlands (where 1/3 of women give birth at home) and found no difference in death rates or illnesses of moms and babies delivered at home or in a medical setting. According to a new study out of the UK, home births actually lower the risk of medical interventions like C-sections.

Myth #3: You'll get more attention in a hospital.
The Reality:
Not even close, says Rothman. "In a hospital, your doctor or midwife won't stay in your room for the entire labor. The nursing staff will be your support, and they can be caring for up to four patients at a time." In a home birth, "you're the only one your midwife is caring for," Rothman says. Plus, a midwife typically stays three to four hours after the delivery to make sure you're okay, then entrusts your care to a partner or family member "who's likely checking on you every 5 minutes," says Rothman.

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Myth #4: Hospitals are more sanitary.
The Reality:
"If you have a one-week-old baby, would you take her to the hospital to visit your sick Aunt Norma?" Rothman asks. "No, of course not, because hospitals are full of germs." Your home has its own "family biome," -- that is, bacteria you and your family members share. "If you don't think it's safe for your baby to be born there," Rothman points out, "than she shouldn't live there either."

Myth #5: If an emergency happens at home, no one's prepared to help you.
The Reality:
This is a fear Rothman hears frequently from expectant moms, yet in the 18 years she's been delivering babies at home, she's never had to transport someone for an emergency C-section. (Although of course, it's always a possibility.) Science supports Rothman's experience. In one British study of home birthing mothers with low-risk pregnancies, less than half of first time moms who started out laboring at home decided to head to a hospital, and only 12 percent of experienced moms did so. The leading cause for moving to a hospital was mom's fatigue or desire for an epidural after a lengthy labor. Only 10 percent of the mothers who transferred did so because of fetal distress. "Ninety-two percent of our moms have a normal vaginal delivery," Rothman notes. If a mom does need to head to a hospital, "all certified nurse-midwives and midwives are trained in neonatal lifesaving and other emergency procedures and are constantly vigilant to developing problems which we like to transfer before there is an emergency," she says.

Myth #6: Home births are more expensive.
The Reality:
Here's one myth that does have some truth to it, but not completely. Home births typically run 1/4 to 1/3 the price of a normal hospital delivery, Rothman says, "but health insurers may only cover 80 percent of that cost, vs. 100 percent of a medical delivery." If you decide to give birth at home, it's true that you may have to pay some out-of-pocket costs, but just how much depends on your insurer.

More From The Stir: Choosing A Home Birth: One Mom Shares Her Story

Myth #7: Clean up at home is a nightmare.
The Reality:
The sheets, the bathroom, the rug -- surely it all gets trashed, right? "Generally, a delivery doesn't make much of a mess, Rothman says. And if it does, accoutrements like plastic bed sheets, trash can liners, blue waterproof pads, ammonia and hydrogen peroxide make clean-up a cinch. "Midwives know how to get blood out of anything," Rothman says. "I'd say we typically leave a home cleaner than we found it."

What are your biggest fears about home birth?

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