Bringing Out Baby ... at Home
May 28, 2001 -- "Having my baby at home was beautiful,
inspiring, awesome!" says Jo Anne Lindberg. "I had complete freedom of
movement and absolute choice in everything I wanted to do."
Lindberg actually went to the movies during early labor, and
then safely delivered a 9 1/2 pound son at home. "It was a lot of work, but
no pain," she says.
Being able to relax in a familiar, comfortable environment
surrounded by those you love decreases anxiety, which in turn decreases pain
and lets your body do its job, she explains.
As president and founder of Birthlink in Chicago, a free
referral service for expectant parents considering home birth, Lindberg often
refers women to Penny Shelton, MD, MPH, a general practitioner with HomeFirst,
a group that has safely delivered more than 15,000 babies at home.
"Giving birth at home supports the normal physiology
better," Shelton tells WebMD. "We're treating it as a normal part of
life instead of a medical condition." Studies have shown that women who
feel anxious or stressed release more adrenaline, a hormone that interferes
with labor, she explains.
Not for Everyone
But home birth is not for everyone. Shelton says that women
with uncontrolled diabetes, chronic high blood pressure, or a condition called
toxemia (also known as preeclampsia) should deliver in the hospital. If labor
begins before 37 weeks in a woman who's already given birth, or before 38 weeks
in a first-time mom, it's safer to go to the hospital.
And if the father does not fully support the mother's decision
to give birth at home, Shelton also recommends against it.
In the absence of these complications, home birth is typically
safe, provided there are enough trained hands on board. Shelton prefers to work
with a team that includes a midwife and nurse, but acknowledges that some
well-trained certified midwives are capable of delivering without the
assistance of a physician.
"Most physicians and nurse midwives are unwilling to attend
home births," Martin A. Monto, PhD, chair of social and behavioral sciences
at the University of Portland in Oregon, tells WebMD. He explains that most
home births are attended by "direct entry" or "lay" midwives
who learn through apprenticeship rather than through conventional medical
Their training may include skills not traditionally taught at
medical or nursing school, such as gentle stretching of the tissues surrounding
the birth canal to avoid having to surgically cut the tissue to allow the
baby's head to pass through, a procedure called an episiotomy. Direct entry
midwifery is illegal in some states, he says.