There are lots of great reasons to have a home birth. For women who want to be in a more relaxing environment and are going through a low-risk pregnancy, it might be an amazing experience. But even though women have been giving birth at home since Eve had Cain and Abel, the truth is that things could happen that might be a danger to the baby or to the mom.
There are complications that could happen no matter where the baby is born, but in a hospital, doctors and nurses are better prepared to deal with the dangers. Some of those are apparent before mom goes into labor, such as if she has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or if an ultrasound has discovered something like a birth defect that could make getting through labor difficult. There are also things that can come up during labor or after, such as high blood pressure that goes out of control or bleeding that won't stop. Even if the mom's home is 10 minutes away from the hospital, it's possible that there might not be time to get to the hospital on time.
It's important that moms understand the risks, so they can make the best decision for their situation. Even though we hope that none of these come true, we want people to have a plan. Here are 15 complications home births can't handle.
15 Needing HELLP
One of the most dangerous complications that could hit a woman in late pregnancy is high blood pressure. It can cause some women to go on bed rest, and sometimes it could cause the need to deliver the baby immediately, even if that means that the child will come early. It's even more dangerous when the condition develops into preeclampsia, and the most severe version of that is called HELLP Syndrome. If that happens, it means that the mom's organs are shutting down, and she needs immediate medical attention at a hospital if that happens.
HELLP Syndrome and preeclampsia symptoms can include severe swelling, headache, vomiting, blurry vision and even seizures. The only cure is to the deliver the baby, and if the symptoms are severe enough, that might mean that progressing through labor naturally isn't a very good idea.
Some women are able to try to give birth naturally if their labor speeds up with induction medication, but doctors are watching closely, and they will rush her to the operating room for a C-section if the baby needs to get out right away. The condition can become very severe very quickly, so it's not a good idea to try to give birth at home when the blood pressure is high. A mom might need help right away, and even an ambulance might not get her to the hospital in time.
14 Big Babies Get Stuck
Getting a baby out of his mom is a very tricky business. Midwives and doulas are very good at it, but sometimes babies just get stuck. This can happen in the hospital too, and the thing is that doulas are pretty good at helping things along. Whereas a lot of women in hospitals labor while laying on their backs — especially if they have an epidural — home births allow women to move around and try different positions that might help get the baby into the birth canal more easily.
But these days the average size of a newborn is increasing while pelvises remain the same, so it's even more likely that the baby could get stuck.
In the past, doctors would use other devices to help get the baby out, but because of a number of injuries, doctors are less likely to use vacuums or forceps these days. Instead, it's more likely that a mom who can't get their baby out, they could end up with a C-section. Without the surgery, it's possible that the baby could end up an injury such as shoulder dystocia, which might leave him without use use of his hand. It's a dangerous situation, and even though a mom might not like the idea of a C-section, it's better to be there to get some help when the baby is stuck so he or she can be delivered as safely as possible.
13 Baby Breathing Troubles
Even if everything goes right with the pregnancy and the delivery, there is still a big possibility that the baby could have trouble after the birth. All that a mom wants to hear after hours of laboring to bring her child into the world is a big healthy cry, but some children aren't born as healthy as they appear to be throughout the pregnancy. Some struggle to catch their breath, and that could be a big problem if there is not a doctor there to provide life-saving measures in those first few important minutes of life.
Sometimes doulas are able to help a child who doesn't have a great APGAR score in the first minute after birth. They can clear the mouth and nose and rub the baby vigorously to get the blood flowing. They can also perform CPR if necessary until an ambulance arrives.
But if the baby doesn't get oxygen quickly, it's possible that he could suffer brain damage in the time that it takes to get him to the hospital.
The chances of breathing trouble are the same whether the baby is born in the hospital or at home, but the ability to get him help is much greater at the hospital.
12 Failure To Progress
Having a baby can be a long drawn out process. It could women hours or even days for their cervix to dilate to the point of being able to push. Staying at home for the labor can often be a benefit, since doulas are more likely to be patient for the labor to continue for as long as it takes. Some women's bodies just need more time, and they will eventually make it to 10 cms. But others stall and there isn't much a doula can do to help them along other than get the mother to walk around and serve some spicy food.
The situation is especially dangerous if the mother's water has broken. At that point, the mom can be at risk for infection the longer it takes for the baby to be born.
In a hospital, doctors tend to make sure that the baby is born within 24 hours to reduce the risk. They sometimes administer induction medication to help the labor progress more quickly, but that's not an option at home. A long labor can also be very difficult, and by the end, moms might be so exhausted that they have trouble pushing. There are a lot of risks when it comes to failing to progress, and moms may decide that it's not safe to continue laboring at home when things aren't going fast enough.
11 Placenta Previa Requires Surgery
There are a few times when having a baby naturally isn't really possible from the very beginning. That's almost always true when there is something in the way of the baby getting out of the birth canal. Sometimes that involves cysts, and sometimes women have a pregnancy complication that causes the placenta to block the cervix. That condition is known as placenta previa, and it can usually be detected via an ultrasound. That means that moms usually have plenty of time to plan a hospital birth because this is a situation that home births just can't handle.
Moms with placenta previa might have bleeding during their pregnancy, and there is a possibility that they might need emergency surgery at the first sign of labor.
Sometimes the placenta can move during the pregnancy so it no longer obstructs the opening, but if it is in the way when labor begins, she's likely going to need a C-section to safely deliver the little one. There are a lot of risks of the placenta detaching and causing problems, so many doctors try to schedule surgery before the mom goes into labor. It's really impossible to safely deliver at home when the placenta is in the way, so this one definitely means that a hospital birth is the best option.
10 STDs And Other Illnesses
Going through labor and delivery is really hard even when you are well. But when the mother is sick before the work begins, it's even worse. An illness can not only make the mom weak and vulnerable, but it can also be a problem for the baby. Illnesses that involve a fever are a definite red flag that the mom could need extra medical care in a hospital setting, but the truth is that there are some illnesses that can be even more detrimental to the baby and the mom might not be aware that she even has it.
STDs are very dangerous for the mom and the baby, and home births just aren't prepared for them. If the mom has HIV, she can pass along the virus that causes AIDS to her infant through natural childbirth, and issues like gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia can cause the baby to get severely sick.
And they could even become blinded by eye infections. The risk is not worth it to have a home birth.
In fact, most doctors recommend a woman with an STD have a C-section to limit the transmission to the baby. At a hospital, both the mom and the baby can go through any treatments that they need, which just isn't possible if the mom gives birth at home.
9 Multiple Births Mean Multiple Cords
Multiple babies mean multiple blessings for a family, but they also mean the risks are multiplied as well. That is true for the pregnancy, and it is also true for the birth. While some people choose to consider home births for their twins, most doctors say that it isn't a good idea, and it's almost certainly out of the question if there are even more babies on board. Many moms of multiples end up on hospital bed rest before they give birth anyway, but twin moms also need to be aware of the big risks that come with deliveries that home births can't handle.
The biggest problems come with mono-mono twins who are dependent on the same placenta, but even for fraternal twins, it's possible that there could be dangers during the delivery. The first big consideration is whether the babies are breech. But the thing is that even if both babies are head down at the beginning of labor, it's possible that the second baby could flip after the first is delivered.
The biggest danger, though, might be from the umbilical cords. With two cords, it's possible that there are a lot of knots in it. The babies could get tangled up, and they might have their circulation cut off.
They might also pull the placenta off, which could cause a lot more bleeding. Sometimes all is fine, but if something goes wrong, there isn't much that can be done during a home birth to save either or both of the babies.
8 Gestational Diabetes Babies Need Help With Their Sugar
There are some issues that might seem minor during pregnancy that can be a bigger deal when it comes to the delivery. That is true of gestational diabetes, which is growing in likelihood in the United States. Many women who are diagnosed with the issue can control it during pregnancy with diet and others can use medication to keep their blood sugar levels at an acceptable level. But when the baby is close to birth, the risks of gestational are at an even greater level, and home births aren't prepared for the risks.
One of the biggest dangers is stillbirth in late pregnancy. Many doctors recommend a mother be induced if she has not gone into labor by 39 weeks because of that risk, and that is only possible in a hospital.
In addition, the mother's blood sugar impacts the baby's blood sugar, and it's possible that the baby won't be able to regulate his levels as well after the birth. Some babies end up in the neonatal intensive care unit because their levels crash unexpectedly.
That can be tragic if it happens at home where there is no doctor or nurse nearby to provide treatment. It's better to be at the hospital, so the mom and the baby can be monitored closely and treatment can come quickly.
7 Cord Prolapse Cuts Off Oxygen
For most parents, the only reason that they think about the umbilical cord when they are planning their labor and delivery is because they want to make sure that the baby's daddy cuts the cord. But the cord, which provides the nutrients, blood and oxygen that sustain the baby in the womb, can be a big issue during the delivery. There are times that the home birth isn't prepared to handle it.
The cord can present a big problem if it gets in the way of the baby in the birth canal. That can happen if the water breaks before the baby's head is right against the cervix.
If that happens, the cord could be squeezed as the baby is going through the birth canal and cut off the baby's oxygen supply before he enters into the world.
If the mom is attempting a breech birth, it's even more dangerous because the cord could be compressed at any point in the delivery before the baby's head is out. There is also a concern that the baby's cord could be knotted or wrapped around the baby's neck. At times a doctor or a midwife can gently unwrap the cord, but unfortunately sometimes babies born in hospitals or at home might not survive. The safest route for cord prolapse, doctors say, is an emergency C-section, and it's best to be at the hospital in case it's necessary.
6 What's Supposed To Come Out Doesn't
We've already mentioned one issue that can happen with the placenta that is very dangerous during the delivery, but there is another kind of issue with the organ that can also be terribly problematic. The truth is that there is no way that a home birth can handle it. The condition is known as placenta accreta, and it involves the placenta embedding more deeply than normal into the uterine wall.
It can cause bleeding late in pregnancy and might cause a woman to go into labor early, but the worst part happens after the birth, when the placenta doesn't naturally detach from the lining of the uterus and come out after the birth.
More and more women have heard about this condition in recent years because Kim Kardashian West had it with her first two children North and Saint. It can cause severe hemorrhaging, and doctors have to work to get the placenta out. Some women end up needed an emergency hysterectomy to stop the building. That certainly can't happen at home, and an ambulance ride might be dicey if a woman needs to be rushed in after a home birth. The condition can be fatal, and a home birth definitely can't handle it.
5 Pain That's Too Hard To Handle
Women who decide to do a home birth are well aware that they will have to go through labor and delivery without pain medication. If they have older children, they may have an idea of what that means, but if they are a first-time mom, they have no what to expect. For most women, it might be the first time that they ever really experience anything painful, so it's hard to know whether or not they have a high pain tolerance. And even women who think that they can handle a lot, each labor is different and the pain can take on a different tenor.
Some women experience agonizing back labor that doesn't ever really go away; some moms go through mild contractions for days, making it hard to keep up your strength; and some go through intolerable high pain levels from the very beginning.
Doulas are very good at helping women move positions and try breathing techniques and methods that can help women get through the pain. But there are times when it's just too hard to handle. If a woman can't handle the pain, she may not be able to relax and let her body progress through labor. That's why it's important to consider a backup plan and have the ability to get to a hospital if a woman needs it. Many home births are set up to deal with the pain, but sometime's it's just too much to handle.
4 Baby Birth Defects
Giving birth to a healthy baby is hard enough, but when the baby suffers from a birth defect, it's even more difficult and risky. That's why it's recommended that babies with known birth defects should be born in hospitals where medical professionals can help and give care as soon as the baby is born. There are some problems that might be OK born at home, but all too often, it's more than a midwife or doula can handle by themselves.
These days, ultrasounds are pretty good at detecting birth defects, especially ones that could be problematic at birth. For example, a baby with a heart defect — the most common birth defect — may not have the strength to go through the stress of labor and delivery.
And a child with a neural tube defect may be paralyzed or worse during a natural delivery. Even issues like cleft lips and palates are too much for a home birth to handle, since the baby will need special care to take any nourishment through a bottle after the birth.
Even with the testing that women go through during pregnancy, it's possible that the baby could be born with a defect that his parents weren't aware of. In that case, he may need to be transported to the hospital as soon as possible. All too often, these are conditions that just can't be handled at home.
3 Terrible Tears
One of the biggest drawbacks of a natural delivery — even with everything goes well and the baby and the mom are healthy — is the possibility of tearing the perineum. According to studies, though, that is even worse for women who have home births. We're not sure why, especially since other studies show that giving birth why lying on your back can be harder on a woman and home births are more likely to allow a woman to use other positions such as squatting or standing.
A woman definitely goes through a lot of trauma between the swelling and the stretching, and the pushing can really wreck it. That's especially true of larger babies and breech babies, which are more likely to be born naturally during a home birth because at a hospital a doctor is likely to recommend a C-section.
While doulas can help when a woman tears, we think that it might be better to have a doctor in charge when she is split open so severely.
The new mom will need stitches, and she'll definitely need some TLC afterward, using ice packs and witchazel pads and other things that could provide relief. The body does heal in ways we wouldn't expect, but it's not always something that a home birth can handle.
2 Severe Bleeding
After the baby's birth, most women think that the bad part is over for them. But that's not necessarily the truth. After the placenta detaches — or if it doesn't detach as it should — a new mom will start bleeding, and there is a big danger that it could be more severe than a home birth can handle.
The mom could end up losing too much blood and passing out or even worse. It's a major reason that some women pass during childbirth, and according to research, it's more likely to occur during a home birth.
Whether it's a nurse in a hospital or a midwife at a home birth, after the baby is born, someone is going to give the mom a rather rough massage to try to get the uterus to shrink. When that happens, the bleeding usually slows. But if it doesn't, it could be disastrous. In a hospital, there is the possibility of giving the mom a blood transfusion to help until the doctors can get the bleeding to stop, but that can't happen at home. It's a really scary possibility, but unfortunately it still happens more often than we ll think it would, and home births just can't handle it.
1 Baby In Distress
After nine months of pregnancy, all a mom really wants is for her baby to be delivered healthy (and she hopes with as little pain as possible). But labor and delivery can be the hard part, and there is a possibility that the baby can have as difficult a time as the mom during the ordeal.
Worse, there's a possibility that the baby could be in distress to the point that his pulse goes up and down and maybe even is lost before the birth. It's something that a home birth might not be able to handle, with devastating results.
There are some women, including most doulas and midwives, who think that doctors are too quick to be troubled by the baby's heartbeat during the labor. While doctors in the hospital often continuously monitor the baby's heartbeat, the others say that it's natural for the baby's heartbeat to go up and down during the process. They worry that doctors are too quick to worry and label the baby in distress, and they believe that accounts for a portion of the rise in C-section rates. But when it's the baby's life on the line, many people would rather be safe than sorry. If the baby is having trouble during a home birth, women shouldn't wait until it's too late to get to the hospital for the medical care that the mom and the baby need.