Giving birth

Home birth: Is it for you?

Think a home birth might be for you? Then this is a great synopsis on what to expect.

By Diane Peters
Photo: iStockphoto Photo: iStockphoto

Finding care: Only registered midwives attend home births in Canada. Call early in your pregnancy, as they get booked up – there are only about 1,000 registered midwives in the country. During prenatal care appointments, your midwife will ask you where you want to deliver, but you don’t have to decide until closer to the birth. You can even change your mind during labour (midwives carry gear for unplanned home deliveries).

Are you eligible? If you’re having twins or a breech baby, suffer from conditions such as diabetes or pre-eclampsia, have had a caesarian section in the past or if you’re getting induced, you may not be able to have your baby at home (and you may be referred to an OB/GYN for care). Unplanned circumstances like a sudden fever during labour could cause your midwife to call off a home birth. If this is your second baby and your first labour was fast, you may want to prep for a home birth in case you can’t make it to the hospital in time.

Hospital versus home: According to Katrina Kilroy, president of the association of Ontario midwives (AOM) and a registered midwife in Toronto, the supplies at a home birth, including an IV, resuscitation equipment, catheters, and medical instruments are the same as what’s on hand at a small community hospital. Hospitals may have nurses and pain medication, but not always instant access to a doctor – at some small hospitals, often an OB/GYN is only called in from home if needed.

Is it safe? A 2009 study out of the University of British Columbia looked at almost 13,000 births in BC and found that planned home deliveries were just as safe as hospital births. According to the AOM, about 21 percent of Ontario planned home births between 2003 and 2006 ended up in hospital – usually when pain medication or hormones to speed up labour were needed. Only about five percent of the transfers to hospital were emergencies requiring an ambulance.


Making the call: For most women, the decision comes down to access to epidurals versus the intimacy of home. Kilroy reports that most mothers find home birth a positive experience. “It’s about where women feel safest,” she says.

To find out what supplies you need for a home birth, click here.

This article was originally published on May 17, 2012

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