Is Home Birth For You?

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To prevent unnecessary medical intervention, some women believe that home birth is a more gentle and natural choice. Is home birth for you?

"So you're doing natural or C-section?"

Every single pregnant mother has had someone ask them this question regarding their deliveries. The benefit of living in 2016 means that mothers enjoy more choice and support during their pregnancy and delivery than ever before, including pain relieving methods, fetal monitoring and a team ready to take over in case of emergencies.

But it also means that with so many medical options, what used to be a straightforward natural process is now treated as a high-tech medical procedure. To the point that some women feel that their labours were overly interfered with and their choices were taken away from them.

Certainly rates of C-sections are higher in Malaysia now with up to 20%-25% of babies in government hospitals delivered via C-section. The figure is believed to be higher in private hospitals.

Enter the home birth

Home birth is simply giving birth at home, whether in your own bed or in a tub of water, with your chosen birth partners and a certified midwife. It's the way humans have done it for most of history.

Advocates claim that for healthy, low risk pregnancies, home birth helps to avoid interventions like inductions, episiotomies, c-sections, epidurals, vacuum and forceps. Labouring moms are free to move around in a familiar environment which can help them relax and help the labour progress. Moms can also change positions, take a shower and eat or drink freely while surrounded by people they are most comfortable with. And cost-wise it is definitely easier on the pocket.

A quick search on the Internet finds plenty of web sites, chat groups and links to books and home videos on the subject. Childbirth-related sites like HypnoBirthing Malaysia lists at least 90 unassisted home birth stories.

Weighing the risks

One of the must-haves for a home birth are midwives who are certified in the field.

In Malaysia, assisted home births are legal and common in small towns or rural areas where access to a hospital is difficult. Based at health clinics, these certified midwives attend to the expectant mothers in their homes with equipment for monitoring foetal heart rate and resuscitation, and medications to stop bleeding. High-risk and emergency cases are transferred to the nearest hospital.

But in urban areas like the Klang Valley, women do not have adequate support for planned home births such as certified midwives who are confident enough or willing to assist in home births. Without the supervision of a qualified and experienced midwife or care provider during home births, most mothers and their birth companions can’t recognise potential problems.

Late last year, two first-time mothers had tragic unassisted home births; they died from excessive blood loss after delivering their babies. Postpartum haemorrhage is the most common cause of maternal deaths worldwide. It can be caused by the failure of the uterus to contract, vaginal or cervical lacerations, uterine rupture or retained placental tissue.

On the bright side, public and private hospitals are making an effort to create a more welcoming and comfortable birthing environment, and address unnecessary obstetric interventions.

So at the end of the day, it's really a question of weighing the risks and benefits and of course, finding a certified professional birth companion if you really would like to try a home birth.