Home birth: Know the pros and cons

Wondering if a planned home birth is right for you? Get the facts about what a home birth involves, 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 in a planned home birth and how to decide if this birthing method is right for you.

What happens during a planned home birth?

During a planned home birth you'll give birth in your home instead of in a hospital or birth center. You'll be assisted during labor and delivery by a midwife or, in some cases, a doctor. During your prenatal care your health care provider will review a list of conditions during pregnancy and labor that would require treatment by a doctor and compromise the safety of a planned home birth. Your health care provider will also review the challenges that can occur during childbirth, how he or she — in comparison with a hospital — would handle them, and the possible health risks for you and your baby.

During labor, your health care provider will periodically — rather than continuously — monitor your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and your baby's heart rate. After delivery, you'll be close to your baby. Your health care provider will examine your newborn and determine whether he or she needs to be transferred to a hospital. In addition, your health care provider will give you information on how to care for your newborn. Follow-up care might include home visits and lactation support.

Why do women choose planned home births?

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

  • A desire to give birth in a familiar, relaxing environment surrounded by people of your choice
  • A desire to wear your own clothes, take a shower or bath, eat, drink and move around freely during labor
  • A desire to control your labor position or other aspects of the birthing process
  • A desire to give birth without medical intervention, such as pain medication
  • Cultural or religious norms or concerns
  • A history of fast labor
  • Lower cost

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

A planned home birth isn't right for everyone. Your health care provider might caution against a planned home birth if you:

  • Have diabetes, chronic hypertension, a seizure disorder or any chronic medical condition
  • Previously had a C-section
  • Use tobacco or illegal drugs
  • Develop a pregnancy complication, such as preeclampsia, preterm labor or significant anemia
  • Are pregnant with multiples or your baby doesn't settle into a position that allows for a headfirst delivery
  • Are less than 37 weeks or more than 41 weeks pregnant
Jun. 21, 2011 See more In-depth