We have culturally accepted the idea of “nesting” as a clear sign that a mother is ready for birth. However, many of us are more reticent to acknowledge that there is an innate inclination to give birth at home.
Yet, for millennia and across cultures, women have bedded down in a safe, controlled environment for birth – if not her own home, almost always a space as comfortable and intimate as the home. Homebirth allows for a woman to be in a familiar environment reducing the stress or uncertainty of being on someone else’s turf. This psychological shift can benefit that birth process, as stress hormones reduce the frequency of contractions and tension, fear, or uncertainty may also reduce the effectiveness of contractions.
Of course, the shift is not purely psychological. By being in an environment where she is “the boss,” a woman is empowered to make choices she may not be able to in a hospital – the choice to birth in a variety of positions or with various props.
Homebirth also has practical benefits: The mother and her birth partner need not be concerned about when to arrive at the hospital – or about being “stuck” at the hospital if they arrive too early. The mother has access to all of her own creature comforts – food and drink, for example, which are shown to be beneficial in labor. And, of course, after the marathon of labor is done, mother and baby are already comfortably settled at home.
Of course, practical precautions must be taken before planning for a homebirth. In the event of a life-threatening emergency, the transfer to the hospital can cost precious minutes. However, in my experience speaking with homebirth midwives, these life-threatening situations are extremely rare in low-risk births. In states where homebirths are supported, commonsense regulations mandate the transfer to a hospital when low-risk pregnancies become high risk (e.g. postterm or preterm birth). These regulations help keep homebirths as safe (if not safer) than hospital births for low-risk women.
Of course, there will always be women who prefer to birth outside their home. For example, I’ve spoken to women who weren’t comfortable birthing at home due to the distractions of housework, pets, or other children. It’s also imperative that the home meet baseline standards for hygiene and be reasonably close to a hospital. In these cases, birth centers that truly mimic a home environment can be invaluable. The literature surrounding homebirth, as well as the experience of millions of women in other countries around the world, clearly support homebirth for low-risk pregnancies. The more we as a society can do to safely regulate and support homebirth, the better the outcomes will be.
What does all of this have to do with yoga? Well, the thing about homebirth is that it is a commitment to natural, drug-free birth. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with medical interventions where they support the mother’s vision of her birth. However, home and birth center births (at least in Florida) must be completely drug-free; so, if that’s what the mother wants, she’ll need to be prepared to manage the discomfort of labor naturally. For these moms, a large library of pain-management techniques and labor positions can be incredibly beneficial. And this is a large part of what is taught in prenatal yoga classes.
In my prenatal yoga classes we work hard – hard enough to have to learn how to handle discomfort. We also move that pregnant body into a lot of positions most Mommas otherwise wouldn’t. Both of these elements can be enormously beneficial! If you’re interested in learning more about prenatal yoga, head here.