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ToddlerAndBellyYou may be consulting this website because you have some niggling doubts about mainstream maternity care,

You may have had unpleasant previous birthing experiences,

You may just be instinctively drawn to home birth as a more non-medicalised form of maternity care or maybe you have had personal contact with a friend or relative who has also had a home birth.

Some women read all around borthing and come to the conclusion that home birth is for them: others just fall into home birth almost by accident. A large percentage of women who have previously given birth choose home birth subsequently because they simply cannot face labouring again in one of our maternity hospitals.

There are many factors that may prompt a woman or couple to opt for home birth but the underlying factor common to them all, whether they realise it or not, is a desire for midwife-led care, which by its very nature is less medicalised and less invasive than what is available in the majority of mainstream maternity services.

Often, when a couple look back on their home birth experience, they realize that wonderful as the birth itself was, the value of a good birth experience is that it set them up for confident parenting. In the early hours and days following the birth, the postnatal care offered by midwives undoubtedly sets families up in the best possible way to achieve their maximum potential as new parents. For example, the exceptionally high breastfeeding rates (95% on average), as compared with 27% in hospital) is just one of the ways the midwife can help you get off to a good start postnatally. In fact, many couples comment, that it was the attention to detail and the loving care they received postnatally that figures most prominently in their memories of their home birth experience.

In Ireland, home birth is about being guided through pregnancy and birth by a midwife rather than an obstetrician. As we are so very rarely exposed to the idea of a midwife being anything more than an obstetrical nurse, it can be very difficult to perceive that midwifery is a separate profession and that midwife -led care and obstetric care have two very opposing views about birth: for midwives, pregnancy and birth is a normal physiological and family event, for an obstetrician pregnancy and birth constitute a potential medical disaster: - neither are considered ‘normal’ except in retrospect. The application of obstetrics across the board in our maternity hospitals has resulted in very invasive procedures often employed routinely even though they may not be medically justified or may not conform to international best practice.

Most labouring women wish to be reassured that obstetrical care is available if the need should arise, and obstetric care has undoubtedly saved the lives of women and babies who might have otherwise died, and indeed it continues to do so. However, it remains an unfortunate truth that the approach which saves the few, when applied across the board to all labouring women does not yield similarly positive results. Too often women endure managed labour and birth in hospitals, convinced that this is a necessary price to pay in order to ensure the safety of the child. Research tells us otherwise; obstetrical care should be limited to those who require it: women with abnormal pregnancies and labours.

The appeal of home-birth can often hang on the most ordinary and concrete things: for one woman it might be being allowed to eat as she likes, for another to be able to move round freely and adopt any position she wishes. Some women have opted for home birth simply because having previously used labouring pools in hospitals outside the 26 counties; they cannot contemplate labouring and giving birth without the support of a pool (not currently available in the majority of Irish Maternity Units). It doesn’t matter if these concerns seem trivial in the great scheme of things, what counts is that these requirements are significant and important to the woman who will give birth and midwife-led care because it is woman-centred, recognizes that in order for a woman to labour successfully her concerns and needs are paramount and that every effort must be made to meet them.

A happy and satisfying birth experience should not be regarded as an exceptional event, a matter of luck or a luxury, but the norm – a wonderful start to greeting and being with the baby you have created and nourished for the past nine months.