Home birth: Know the pros and cons

Wondering if a planned home birth is right for you? Get the facts about the possible risks and how to prepare for the big day.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're considering a planned home birth, you probably have questions. Is it safe? Will you need a midwife or doula? How do you create a backup plan? Find out what's involved and how to decide if this birthing method is right for you.

What happens during a planned home birth?

If you're thinking about a planned home birth, make sure that you understand the potential risks and benefits. A planned home birth might be associated with fewer medical interventions, but in general, home births are associated with an increased risk of obstetric emergencies when compared with delivery in a medical facility.

Planned home births are associated with an increased risk of:

  • Needing labor induction
  • A delivery requiring the use of forceps or vacuum extraction
  • C-section
  • Severe bleeding requiring a blood transfusion
  • Severe vaginal lacerations or tears

There are several factors that might reduce the risks of these complications, including having:

  • Assistance from a certified nurse-midwife
  • Access to a practicing obstetric doctor
  • A plan for emergency transport to the nearest hospital

If you deliver at home, labor management might differ from what you would experience in a hospital setting. During labor at home, your health care provider will periodically — rather than continuously — monitor your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and your baby's heart rate. A health care provider will examine your newborn and determine whether a hospital transfer is needed.

Why do women choose planned home births?

You might choose a planned home birth for many reasons, including:

  • A desire to give birth without medical intervention, such as pain medication, labor augmentation, labor induction or fetal heart rate monitoring
  • A desire to give birth in a comfortable, familiar place surrounded by family
  • Dissatisfaction with hospital care
  • A desire for freedom and control in the birthing process
  • Cultural or religious concerns
  • A lack of access to transportation
  • Lower cost

Are there situations when a planned home birth isn't recommended?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cautions against a planned home birth if:

  • You are pregnant with multiples
  • Your baby doesn't settle into a position that allows for a headfirst delivery
  • You've previously had a C-section
July 07, 2017 See more In-depth