Home Birth as an Option
By Erin Kaspar-Frett, Earth Mother Midwife
Photo by Renee Barth Photography
Walking through the journey of birthing, our decisions for treatment, location and provider can have profound ripple effects. As we evaluate these options, location becomes a human rights issue. Please note, for the purpose of this article, “family” is any constitution of parent(s) and child(ren) including single parents as well as same-sex or other family make-ups.
In most countries, couples are supported in their decision to give birth in the place of their choosing, with a trained care provider, and the family’s home is recognized as an option. Studies have demonstrated that home is just as safe as the hospital for normal, low-risk pregnancies with the added (and very real) benefit of having fewer interventions .
Medical interventions, when given out of fear or convenience, can lead to unforeseen complications. The US has one of the worst infant and maternal mortality and morbidity rates in the industrialized world, and it’s worsening . The two things set us apart from countries with better rates: adequate health care for low- and moderate-income families, and widely integrated midwifery care.
While there is a standard of care that should be followed by midwives, variations of style make midwives as individual as OB’s are. Some midwives are more medically comfortable, others rely on the art of intuition and respond to the signs/symptoms presented by the body, and some are in the middle with a blend of advancements and wisdom of the ages. Midwives practice in homes, hospitals and free-standing birth centers.
Midwife-attended prenatal appointments are often personal and personalized. They typically last an hour, compared to the 5 – 10 minutes of face-time allowed with an OB practice. Midwives generally take a holistic approach, considering the emotional, as well as physical factors involved in health. Partners and children are welcomed at appointments and embraced as an integral part of care as part of the goal is really to know the family. Midwives care about their clients in a personal way and this often leads to a higher level of satisfaction for the birthing family.
Midwives are trained to handle many complications, should they arise. Having a trained midwife in attendance allows the parent/family to experience the benefits of birthing at home while feeling secure that should a need arise for medical care, that need will be recognized and managed appropriately.
Humans have been giving birth since the dawn of time and the move to hospital has been in relatively recent history. We know that mammals need to feel safe and comfortable in order to give birth normally. The smells and sounds at a hospital are often not comforting to the part of the brain which governs hormones and relaxation.
Any place or event that produces unfamiliar stimulus can produce adrenaline and activate our fight or flight response. The body then responds by blocking the receptor cites for endorphins (the body’s natural pain reducers), potentially providing a more painful experience. In addition, the receptor cites for oxytocin (the hormone needed for effective contractions) are also blocked, potentially causing a longer, more painful and less effective labor. If we satisfy the need we have for comfort and safety, wherever that is, labor will be less painful and more efficient, barring a medical difficulty.
In the United States, there are two types of accredited midwives: the Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and the Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). The CNM first attends nursing school and then continues on to obtain their CNM degree. The CPM is trained directly and is not a nurse.
Some CPM’s adhere to the apprenticeship model and study under a skilled midwife for years, learning birthing skills and studying on their own time. Others attend accredited schools and receive academic training while still learning skills through a preceptorship. Once trained, the student can take the national certification exam, North American Registry of Midwives (NARM), and become a Certified Professional Midwife. Each state governs its licensure policy individually. Wisconsin and Minnesota both license Certified Professional Midwives, however, Minnesota does not mandate licensing.
Giving birth at home with a trained midwife is a safe option for most families. A care provider who has invested time getting to know you, allowing them to provide support specific to your personal needs, can be an excellent choice for many families. Experience the comforts of home, surrounded by family and close friends, while bringing a new life into the world.
Erin Kaspar-Frett is a Licensed, Certified Professional Midwife with a Master’s of Science in Midwifery from the Midwives College of Utah. She lives with her family in Knapp, Wisconsin and serves a geographical area within a two-hour radius of her Menomonie office. She can be reached at 612-801-9967 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Erin and the safety of a home birth, please visit www.earthmothermidwife.com.