Homebirth – What Is It All About?

Birth from homeMost women have heard about a home birth but how many actually know what a home birth entails, or how to go about arranging a homebirth?


What is a homebirth?

Over the last few years, homebirths have become more and more popular in South Africa. The most common reason for women opting for a homebirth over a traditional hospital birth is because they feel the environment (their home) is far more relaxed or natural than a cold and clinical labour ward. A midwife is present during the birth and will aid with labour and delivery. Since complications can arise during birthing, a midwife will advise if medical intervention is required.

A water birth is another popular choice among more South African women and here the birthing tub will be setup at home.


What can a homebirth offer you?

With a hospital birth, women are restricted to a labour ward. With a homebirth, labouring women are free to walk or wonder around, rest, sleep, etc. They have the freedom of their home and they find a position that is comfortable for them during labour. With a homebirth, the soon-to-be mother is not hooked up to monitors and drips and as such they are able to listen to their bodies and respond accordingly. Partners (along with older children) can be actively involved in the birthing process.

When delivering in a hospital labour ward, the lights are bright and focused, while homebirthing can be done in a darkened room, with candlelight and soft music. A woman can decide how she wants her newborn baby to come into the world – soft lights, soft music, incense burning. Much research has been conducted into the benefits of homebirths and the research proves that babies born into a natural, home environment are a lot less stressed after the birth and they take to breastfeeding a lot quicker than hospital-born babies.


A homebirth is not for everyone

Some woman may find that an aided or assisted homebirth is risky and they prefer to be in a hospital, surrounded by medical professionals. Women with high-risk pregnancies are advised against a homebirth. Women with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, etc. are generally advised to deliver their baby in a hospital environment, as are women who are expecting multiples.

Besides the health or safety concerns, a pregnant woman may also feel that a homebirth will not give them enough time to recover from the labour and delivery. Even after giving birth, most women will be urged to get up and interact with their older kids or husbands, rather than relaxing and taking it easy.

Deciding to have a homebirth is a personal choice and not all women are ready for this -new’ way of birthing.


Quick and interesting facts on home birthing:

  • A homebirth is far less expensive than a hospital birth.
  • Only 5% of all homebirths result in caesarean while in South African private hospitals the caesarean rate is a staggering 50% or more – while some hospitals have a 100% caesarean rate.
  • All births at home are done with no pain-relieving drugs.
  • Natural pain relief methods are available during home birthing, such as massage, aromatherapy, birth pools and heat compresses.
  • A midwife will dispose of the placenta and will also clean up after the birth.
  • Virtually all homes are equipped for a homebirth and there is no need to buy any specialised equipment. The midwife will request certain personal hygiene items be provided, such as pads and cotton wool.
  • The World Health Organisation has stated that there is no conclusive proof that birth in hospital is by any means safer than a home birth.
  • Visit the website for information and access to homebirth resources. The website contains a directory of midwives who offer home birthing services.

If you and your partner have made the decision to have a home birth – remember it is your own personal choice and you are not obliged to inform anyone. Some doctors, as well as well-meaning friends and family members may try to change your mind!


 – Kathy Baron


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