Homebirth

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Homebirth - The Basics:

For generations, women across Canada and all over the world have chosen to give birth to their babies at home.  In Canada, midwives are the only health care providers trained and licensed to offer this choice of birthplace to their clients and have been doing so for some time.  While there may be many misconceptions about homebirth, we know from several research studies that planned homebirth with a midwife is a safe and viable option for healthy low-risk women. To find out if midwifery care and homebirth are available in your province, see the table below.

Why do women choose homebirth?

Women who choose homebirth usually say it is because they prefer the comfort of being in familiar surroundings. Some women feel more confident and relaxed when they are able to control their birthing environment: the lighting, the temperature, the music, the type of food, their bed and their bathroom.  When birthing at home, a woman can have as many or as few people at her side as she chooses. The range of pain relief options available at a homebirth includes things such as massage, shower/bathing, and sterile water injections. Women can only access an epidural in hospital.

What the Research Demonstrates:

There have been two large studies in the recent past examining the safety of homebirth by midwives in Ontario and British Columbia.  Both studies concluded that, for healthy low-risk women, homebirth was just as safe as hospital birth for both women and babies.  Women who chose to deliver at home were much less likely to experience interventions in their labour, such as induction, augmentation, epidural, episiotomy and vacuum or forceps birth.  They were also less likely to have a Cesarean section and were more likely to breastfeed and for a longer time.  Their babies were just as healthy as those born in hospital.

Keeping Homebirth Safe:

Midwives are trained to deliver babies in and out of hospital.  They continually have to re-certify in Emergency Skills, Neonatal Resuscitation, and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation(CPR) and are trained to handle emergencies that may arise.  Clients of midwives who are considering homebirth are continually screened through pregnancy and labour to ensure they remain good candidates for homebirth.  If complications arise, these are managed and hospital birth is recommended.  At each birth, two midwives are present to care for the mother and her new baby.  Midwives carry with them the equivalent of what is available in a small community hospital when they attend a birth at home: they can start IVs, insert catheters, monitor fetal heart tones, and suction and ventilate a newborn baby’s lungs if they need help to breathe.  They carry medicines to manage bleeding that may occur with the birth of the baby.

Things to consider when choosing your birth place:

Choosing where to birth your baby can be very complex.  Many women opt to birth their babies at home as it is a safe, comforting and supportive place for them.  Feeling at ease with your surroundings has a tremendous positive impact on your labour.  For some women, their home does not offer them this refuge and they may opt to birth in hospital as a result. 

Having a low-risk healthy pregnancy is necessary in order to birth at home.  Sometimes complications arise along the way, such as high blood pressure, or diabetes, that make delivering in hospital safer than home.  Your midwife will walk you through whether or not you are a good candidate for homebirth as your pregnancy and even your labour progresses. 

While many women choose to birth their babies at home, the hospital remains, in the view of many people, the most acceptable place for babies to be born.  Thus, women who choose homebirth need to be confident in this choice as family members, friends and others around them may question it.  Regardless of her choice of birthplace, women can always change their mind even in the midst of labour.  Ultimately, what is most important is that she is comfortable in her choice, that she feels supported and that she is birthing her baby where it is safe.    

What Happens After The Birth?

Once the baby is safely delivered and both the mother and baby are stable, midwives typically give some time for the family to be together.  They will then complete a newborn exam, weigh the baby and help the mother and baby to breastfeed.  They will stay at your home at least two hours after your placenta is delivered and make a plan for follow-up home visits before they leave. 

More Homebirth Questions?

If you are considering homebirth, talk to your midwife about it.  She will discuss the risks and benefits given your particular circumstance and can revisit your choice of birthplace as often as you need throughout your pregnancy.  If you are considering a homebirth and are in the care of a physician, seek out the services of a licensed midwife to help you with your decision.  To find a midwife in your province or territory, see the table below. 

Where Can I Go For More Information?

Province/ Territory

Midwifery is regulated:

Midwifery is funded by government:

Midwifery care is free:

Choice of birth place:

How to find a midwife 

Alberta

yes

yes

yes

Home, birth centre, or hospital

website

British Columbia

yes

yes

yes

Home or hospital

website

Manitoba

yes

yes

yes

Home, birth centre, or hospital

website

Newfoundland and Labrador

no

no

no

Hospital (nurse-midwives)

website

New Brunswick

yes

No

no

Not available

--

Northwest Territories

yes

yes

yes

Home, birth centre, or hospital

No formal contact

Nova Scotia

yes

yes

yes

Home or hospital

website

Nunavut

yes

yes

yes

Birth centre or hospital in Winnipeg, Yellowknife or Iqaluit

No formal contact

Ontario

yes

yes

yes

Home, birth centre or hospital

website

Prince Edward Island

no

no

no

--

--

Quebec

yes

yes

yes

Home, birth centre or hospital

website

Saskatchewan

yes

yes

yes

Home or hospital

website

Yukon

no

no

no

 

--

Revised September 2013.