In Denmark, two percent of pregnant women choose a home birth, while in the Netherlands one in three women give birth at home. In Sweden almost all births take place in a hospital, although planned home births are becoming more common. However, only about one in a thousand women in Sweden currently choose to have a planned home birth. And Sweden is still the only Nordic country where the parents must pay the cost of a home birth themselves.
The rules differ slightly from place to place. In Stockholm, the health authorities will pay the midwife if the following three criteria are met:
• The pregnancy must be without complications
• The woman must have given birth before
• The previous birth or births must have been normal
Is there more risk involved with a home birth?
According to current research, if the above criteria are met, it is no riskier giving birth at home than in hospital. In the Netherlands, research has shown that mothers who have given birth previously actually have a slightly lower risk of serious complications when giving birth at home than in hospital.
There are several reasons why home birth is not recommended for the first child: It is hard for the mother to predict how she will react to a situation she has never experienced before. In addition, the risks of home birth are higher for first-time births than subsequent births.
The health authorities may not pay for home birth
Most Swedish local health authorities will not pay for home birth, so the parents must pay the cost themselves. The parents must also find a midwife who will assist with the home birth and be available when the due date approaches. Ask your maternity clinic for tips and information.
Some local health authorities make it easier for midwives to assist in home births by offering the opportunity for them to collaborate with doctors and maternity clinics. If you local health authority does not do this, midwives may be hesitant to assist in home births. You can also choose to be assisted during the birth by a doula, a labour coach who is not necessarily a midwife.
Go into hospital if necessary
There are fewer pain management options available for home births than hospital births. For instance, you can't have an epidural at home. With home births, the parents often want things to be as natural as possible. The midwife usually offers acupuncture, TENS and massage.
Of course, you can always be taken to hospital by ambulance if something unforeseen happens during the birth. The mother should inform her maternity clinic if she wants to give birth at home, so that the clinic can keep a place free in case complications arise and the mother has to come to hospital.
Statistics for home births in the western world show that complications don't need to be dramatic in order for the woman to be taken to hospital. One of the most common reasons for the mother going to hospital is if the contractions are not strong enough to expel the baby, causing the mother to become exhausted.
Home births can be quick and unplanned
Until around the turn of the last century, most babies were born at home. Today, medical care is so advanced that the risks are relatively low for both the mother and the baby regardless of where the birth takes place. Moreover, complicated pregnancies are very carefully monitored.
Occasionally a birth can take place suddenly and unplanned, for instance on the floor at home or in the car on the way to hospital. Although this is uncomfortable and impractical, it usually works out fine.
Would you like to give birth at home with the assistance of a midwife? It is possible to have a planned home birth in most places in Sweden, but there are a few things you should know.