Home birth vs hospital birth: which one is right for you? - Ruth Health

Home birth vs hospital birth: which one is right for you?

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Fast facts:

  • Home births and hospital births each offer unique benefits. Take time to make an informed decision based on your needs.
  • Many people who choose a home birth do so to avoid unnecessary medical interventions, and to have as much control over their labor experience as possible.
  • Sometimes a hospital birth is the safest option given a person’s health history. There are many opportunities to personalize the experience of giving birth in a hospital. (A doula can help with this!)
  • If certain complications arise during labor, you may need to transfer to a hospital. If planning for a home birth, have a backup plan in place.

Where do you want to give birth? It’s one of the biggest decisions to make as you create your birth plan — and one of the most personal ones.

At Ruth Health, we firmly believe there’s no universal right answer to the question of home birth vs hospital birth. Each birthing journey is unique. What matters is that you make an informed decision based on your needs during this pregnancy.

(That’s right, if you’ve given birth previously, it’s okay to approach labor differently with baby number two and beyond.)

That said, there are some instances in which it may be medically necessary to give birth in a hospital. If certain complications arise during labor and delivery, you will need to transfer to a hospital or other medical facility. 

For this reason, we suggest planning for all scenarios. If you decide on a planned home birth, make sure to also have a backup option in place.

Below, we’ll share how to make a home birth as safe as possible and how to make a hospital birth as personalized and comfortable as possible.

Here’s what to consider as you explore your options of where to give birth.

Is it safe to give birth at home?

A home birth is generally a safe option for a healthy pregnancy, meaning one in which:

  • Fetal development is normal
  • The birthing person feels well throughout pregnancy and doesn’t experience complications such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia

Generalizations about the risks of home births often fail to paint a complete picture. A few things to keep in mind:

  • A lot of data about the outcomes of home births don’t distinguish between planned and unplanned home births. The latter often occur as the result of an unexpected emergency, which has inherent risks.
  • Many studies on home births don’t account for individual health factors including pregnancy complications, preexisting health conditions, or access to prenatal care. All of these factors increase the risk of a home birth.

Why choose a home birth?

Many people choose to give birth at home to avoid unnecessary medical interventions including c sections and continuous fetal monitoring. While these interventions are helpful for some birthing people — not to mention life-saving — they can bring health risks for both birthing person and baby in a healthy pregnancy.

As an example, the overuse of c sections in the U.S. and many other countries means many birthing people have a major surgery with the possibility of complications when they don’t need to. 

(This is not to imply there aren’t instances when a c section is the safest option for delivery — there are, and you can read all about them here!)

Additionally, some routine hospital birth practices like cervical checks can make labor more painful or uncomfortable, and they aren’t necessary for all individuals.

Note that while a home birth eliminates the possibility of these interventions altogether, there are ways to avoid unnecessary medical interventions or procedures during a hospital birth. 

Working one-on-one with a doula, a non-medically trained birthing professional, can help you advocate for your needs and make sure that your care preferences are honored as much as possible during labor. 

Learn more about Ask A Doula by Ruth Health.

Beyond the risks associated with medical interventions, many birthing people find that a hospital setting makes childbirth feel more like a medical process than a physiological one.

Why some birthing people choose a home birth:

  • It eliminates the possibility of any unnecessary medical interventions, including pain medication.
  • It ensures that a trusted provider, with whom you already have a relationship, will deliver your baby. For birthing people of color, this can help prevent racial bias within your care team.
  • Being in a comfortable and familiar space can make labor and delivery a more positive, less stressful, and even faster experience.
  • You have more control over the entire birthing experience, including eating and drinking, taking showers or baths, and using aromatherapy.

Planning for a safe and successful home birth

Planning is key to having a successful home birth. 

Here are the most important steps to take as you prepare to give birth at home.

Build a birthing team you trust

You’ll still need the assistance of a medically trained health professional when giving birth at home. They will regularly monitor your vital signs including temperature, pulse, and blood pressure, just like in a hospital birth.

Midwives are frequently used during home births. Some people choose to work with obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs) who deliver outside hospital settings.

Make a backup plan

Some people who try to give birth at home need to transfer to a hospital as labor progresses. 

To ensure safe delivery of your baby, consult your birthing team about scenarios that would necessitate a hospital transfer as you finalize your birth plan. Be sure to coordinate transportation in advance.

These are common reasons people who plan for a home birth might need to deliver in a hospital:

  • Prolonged labor
  • High blood pressure, bleeding, or fever
  • Your pain management needs change during labor
  • Your baby is showing signs of distress

Why choose a hospital birth?

Sometimes a hospital birth is the right choice for reasons including the following.

Access to emergency care

Comfort is subjective, and there are many birthing people who feel more at ease in a hospital, knowing that emergency care is readily accessible.

Individual health history

Depending on your health history, a hospital birth may be the safest option. Preexisting health conditions like type 1 diabetes and pregnancy complications like preeclampsia often require more care and monitoring than is available during a home birth.

Additionally, if you are planning to try for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC), it’s important to have access to hospital or medical facility resources.

As part of your decision-making process, consult your birthing team and ask if they have reservations about a home birth based on your health history and pregnancy. If you have concerns about their recommendations, remember you are always within your right to switch providers.

Working one-on-one with a doula is a great way to determine the safest delivery option for your pregnancy.

Pain management options

Pain management is also a personal choice, and certain options, like an epidural, are only available during a hospital birth.

Add a Ruth Health doula to your birthing team

Nobody knows what you need better than you, and Ruth Health is here to support your birthing journey however we can.

Ask A Doula by Ruth Health offers unlimited texting access to a continuous support doula for guidance on birth planning, feeding, and anything else pregnancy or postpartum-related. Start for free.

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