Recently published Ithaca Newspaper article about home-based midwifery care, with supportive commentary by local physicians about home birth with Licensed Midwives

Title: Parent to Parent by Elizabeth Bauchner, Homebirth Mom

For many women, the decision to give birth to their children at home is a natural one. In Ithaca and the surrounding area, four licensed midwives are available to assist mothers who wish to give birth at home.

While not for everyone, home birth can offer benefits for the mother, the baby and the entire family. Donna Bodenstein, an Ithaca mother of two, gave birth to her second child at home two and a half years ago. She describes the even as "spectacular, clam, beautiful and perfect."

Bodenstein experienced such a fast labor and delivery (less than 10 minutes from when they first realized it was time to call the midwife) that her son was born a few minutes before her midwife arrived. However, Donna and her husband stayed calm; they knew their midwife was coming any minute and their newborn, Rory, was crying and breathing. 

Bodenstein's experience is certainly an unusual one. Most women do not experience such fast labors and deliveries but she is glad she planned for a home birth.  "I would have panicked if I had to leave my house and couldn't make it to the hospital in time," Bodenstein told, "but with our midwife on the way, I knew I wasn't going to have to deal with the placenta on my own, or trying to drive with a newborn and a toddler to the hospital in the midst of all that was happening."

What are the risks?

Viola Managhan, MD, a family physician in Montour Falls who also practices obstetrics, considers herself supportive of home birth but adds, Its definitely for low-risk births." According to Monaghan, a high right birth can include pregnancy-induced hypertension, poorly controlled gestational diabetes, babies showing signs of growth restriction, preterm infants, twins or to other multiples and women with a history of complicated labor or deliveries. According to Monaghan, the good news for women desiring a home birth is that , "most birth as low risks."

Jamie Loehr, MD, also a family physician who practices obstetrics, says that the biggest risk of home birth is that the mother must be willing to accept that there is a potential delay in emergency care if she needs to be transported to the hospital for any reason. However, he adds emphatically, "statistically, home birth are as safe or safer than hospital birth for low risk women."

Monica Daniels, a certified nurse midwife who runs Gently Born Midwifery, agrees with Loehr. Daniels does not recommend home birth for all women, but explains "it's a wonderful option for women who anticipate a normal healthy birth."  Who shouldn't have a home birth?  According to Daniel, while each women should be individually assessed, in general women with over-riding medical problems such as heart disease and high blood pressure."

While midwives and physicians may disagree on whether some risks should be handled in a hospital setting, in general the Ithaca area contains a very supportive network of midwives and physicians who support a women's choice to birth at home. This kind of teamwork is still not available to most women in the United States. 

Benefits of home birth

Despite the risks, there are many benefits to giving birth at home. For example, the mother does not have to leave home to drive anywhere, possibly impeding labor's progress. The mother has chosen who will be her primary caregiver and her midwife stays with her for as long as the mother needs or wants. Donna Bodenstein says that her prenatal care was "the best she could have gotten."  She feels her midwife got to know her as a whole person, and not just a pregnant person. She developed a strong bond with her midwife and trusted her completely.

Other benefits, according to Daniel, are that at home the noise level is kept to a minimum, the mother has complete control over what she eats and rinks in labor and perhaps most importantly, she remains in control of her positioning during labor and birth. For many women this power will make them more comfortable at home, and ultimately, the mother needs to give birth wherever she is the most comfortable. If that happens to beat home, changes age the is where she ill have the easiest labor and delivery.

Family Bonding 

Loehr is not only supportive of home birth but his two youngest children where born at home. His wife Caitlin, says, "it just felt natural to have babies at home,"  Caitlin herself was born at home and has always seen home birth as an option. The Loehrs feel that birth is a normal healthy part of life.  Furthermore, they didn't want to be separated from their older children to gotoa hospital. Caitlin says, "I wanted (the birth of her second child) to be a natural experience for my first born. I wanted him to be totally part of it."  Their two boys were also present at the birth of their baby sister, and the Loehrs feel that by including their children in this important family event, they had a better opportunity to bond immediately with the baby.  

The physicians and the midwife I spoke with all agree that home birth should remain a safe, viable option for whom who choose it.  Monahan things that the Ithaca area is a leader in healthcare options for childbearing women. 

Elizabeth Bauchner lives in Ithaca with her husband and three children. Please see her column next week detailing the birth of her third child at home.