Home Births vs. Hospital Births: What You Need to Know

Are you considering a home birth for you and your baby? Many women opt to give birth in the comfort and privacy of their own homes rather than in a hospital, where friends and family can gather, and the surroundings are familiar. However, home births are not ideal for everyone, and there are many things to consider when contemplating the benefits of home births vs. hospital births and deciding which option is best for you and your baby.

Home Births Are Not Safe for Everyone

Planned home births are generally safe for women who are 36 to 42 weeks pregnant, have low-risk pregnancies and a certified midwife present to guide the birth.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you should not consider a home birth if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • You have a disease that puts you at higher risk of complications, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • You’ve had a C-section in the past
  • Your baby is in a breech position or any position that prevents a headfirst delivery
  • You are having multiple births

How Should I Plan My Home Birth?

If having your baby at home is a safe option, planning is key. There are a few important questions to consider.

Who will you hire as your midwife?

The ACOG recommends hiring a nurse-midwife or midwife who is certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board. It’s a good idea to ensure that your midwife works with a local obstetrician for consultations or backup. You may also choose to hire a doula, who can assist with labor and provide care to your newborn.

Where will you give birth in your home?

Is your bedroom/bed big enough and comfortable enough? Another option is a water birth, giving birth in a tub of warm water (you might need to rent a birthing tub). The water can be soothing and reduce stress for both mother and baby, and no major risks have been linked to it for low-risk pregnancies.

What is your plan B?

While most midwives come prepared with oxygen for you and the baby, IVs, tools for suturing tears, and certain medications, you need to have a plan in place in the event a transfer to the hospital becomes necessary to protect your health and the health of your baby. This could happen for many reasons, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Labor not progressing
  • Fetal distress
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Cord prolapse
  • Hemorrhage

What Are the Advantages of Hospital Births?

While welcoming your newborn into the world at home may sound appealing to some women, for many others, the decision to give birth at a hospital makes more sense. Hospital births have many advantages over home births, including:

  • If you encounter any complications, an experienced and highly skilled team of OB-GYNs and other maternity professionals are immediately ready and prepared to provide the care and treatment you and your baby need.
  • Epidurals and other pain medications can be administered.
  • Your baby's heart rate will be monitored electronically throughout labor and delivery.
  • Newborn screenings to identify and treat any conditions your baby might have.

When choosing a hospital, be sure to investigate all of the maternity services available. Request a tour of the labor and birthing rooms. Also, inquire about whether the following benefits are offered, which can make a positive difference in your birthing experience:

  • Birthing suites: These private rooms have a homey, comfortable feel and include all of the amenities you and your family need. You will also have lots of privacy to bond with and breastfeed your baby.
  • Postpartum nurses: Postpartum nurses are specially trained to help you make the transition to postnatal care as smoothly and safely as possible. They also have the skills and medical tools required to immediately address any concerns or problems that may happen.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU): In the event your newborn is in need of critical care, giving birth in a hospital with a NICU can make all the difference, as your baby won’t need to be transferred to another hospital. You also take comfort in knowing your baby is nearby at all times.
  • Lactation services: If you plan to breastfeed, it’s smart to choose a hospital that offers breastfeeding workshops and private consultations with a lactation specialist.
  • Educational resources: From pregnancy and childbirth to caring for your newborn, a good hospital will offer in-person and virtual classes on a variety of topics that help to give new parents the support they need.

If concerns about COVID-19 are making you hesitant to have a hospital birth, keep in mind that hospitals are also taking extra precautions to ensure that you, your baby, and all patients are safe and protected throughout your stay.

The Kim and Steven Ullman Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital offers state-of-the-art technology and compassionate round-the-clock care.