Since 1960 the number of women opting for a home birth has dropped dramatically. At the time, 33.2% of women chose to give birth at home and this number dropped steadily until 1988 when it was 0.9% of women. Since 1988 the percentage has begun to rise again with some degree of fluctuation reaching as high as 2.9% in 2007 and 2008 and falling to 2.1% in 2016.
There are various advantages to giving birth in one’s own home, not the least of which is the comfort brought by familiar surroundings during such a stressful event. One of the reasons given for the steady decline since 2001 is a shortage of midwives. This is because hospitals are being stretched in their capacity to accommodate people, and so midwives are often called upon to help. This means that when the time comes and a woman wishes to have a natural childbirth in her own home with a midwife she has spent months getting to know, she may be told that she is unable to because the midwife has been called away. Women over 45 are the most likely to have multiple children and by that age, they are more likely to feel confident in how the process should go and would likely be perfectly happy to stay at home while being overseen by a midwife.
Part of the decline and still low percentage of home births is due to the negative stereotypes in the type of people who tend to opt for such a thing. For a long time, it was associated with the type of misguided person who would not go to the hospital for any reason. However, nothing could be further from the truth. It is a perfectly sane and normal thing to do. A home birth is something that women should have the right to choose if they wish, and more resources should be at their disposal if they choose to do so.
There is understandably a lot of fear attached to having a baby and many people feel safer in a dedicated medical environment when the time comes. The reality though, is that a home birth is perfectly safe for the vast majority of mothers and any issues that do arise can be dealt with by the midwife. Hospitals are not perfect safe-havens and things can go wrong no matter where the birth takes place. The reality is, that for the vast majority of people nothing will go wrong. Having a child within one’s own home is simply an alternative that should be available to everyone.