This is one of those topics that is really hard for me to start and get into because there is so much to think about and consider when choosing where to give birth that I tend to jump around from point to point and back. Bear with me here.
The first thing I'm going to say is DO YOUR RESEARCH! I cannot stress this enough. Do not make such an important decision based on what other people feel is best for them. Read, research, consider, use common sense, and make the decision for yourself.
That being said, I planned a home birth and my prenatal appointments were with a home birth midwife, but I ended up having a c-section in the hospital.
When I got pregnant, I searched our area for home birth midwives. I found one that was about 20 min. from where I live and contacted them. I scheduled an appointment at 6 weeks to meet the midwives (there were actually two) and took Fiance and my mother along with me to ask questions. I ended up really liking both of them and chose them as my prenatal caregivers. Each appointment they would listen to the heartbeat, do fundal height, feel the baby, take blood pressure, ask what I'd been eating, etc. Pretty much what you do at a regular doctor appointment. However, they also asked how I'd been feeling, they always asked Fiance how my moods had been, any questions or concerns. The difference between seeing them and seeing a doctor was that there wasn't only a short time for everything. They actually wanted to sit and talk with you and make sure everything was going well.
I opted out of sonograms completely (and cervical checks), though some people still chose to have them, and got my blood drawn for the normal pregnancy tests that they do. When I went into labor, I called the midwife and she came down to check how I was. Still slow and steady and not much going on. When labor really started to pick up, they set up the birth tub and I sat in it for a while which felt amazing. I labored like that for three days. Slow. Progressing but not quickly. My water never even broke. On the fourth day (crazy, I know), labor was getting really intense. I hadn't slept hardly at all in the past three days and was really tired. She checked dilation and I was still only a seven, but when she checked my blood pressure it had gone up. We talked and decided it was time to head to the hospital and see what was up. The nurses and obgyn on call were all really nice. I signed for a c-section since labor wasn't progressing and had A at 11:48 that night.
The reason my labor wasn't progressing was because A's umbilical cord was wrapped like a harness around her body. It wasn't cutting off any blood flow, and neither her or I were in any danger from it whatsoever, but it was keeping her from moving down into the birth canal as she should have been and pushing labor along.
My main reasons for not choosing a hospital birth in the beginning are hospital interventions (pitocin, which they would have pushed at me, threats of a c-section, breaking of water bag, no food, constant cervical checks, etc.) They don't let you eat, which is so dangerous. Your body is working hard. You NEED nutrition from food, not from an IV. If they don't want me to eat, that's too bad. Breaking the water bag and constant cervical checks are putting you at great risk for infection. Using Pitocin puts you at risk for needing a c-section. The pitocin makes contractions harder and more difficult to deal with which leads to most women opting to get an epidural. The epidural, in turn, makes you more comfortable, but it also slows the contractions and slows down labor, which means you need more pitocin to speed things up and this cycle often puts the baby in distress and leads to an emergency c-section. I was not okay with having a doctor threatening me with a c-section and pitocin if my labor didn't hurry up.
I also didn't want to give birth in a hospital because home is so much more comfortable. You can listen to your body instead of listening to what others tell you that you NEED to be doing or what NEEDS to be happening. Thankfully the hospital didn't argue with me when I told them no eye cream, no circumcision (if A had turned out to be a boy, since we didn't find out beforehand), and no vaccinations. The only thing we consented to was the newborn heel stick, and the only thing they ever took her out of our room for was the newborn hearing test.
However, I did plan for the possibility of going to the hospital if something did happen, and I was okay with it when we did have to go because I wasn't going into the whole thing with the notion that I was having a home birth no matter what came up. We needed to go, and we did. She was born very healthy and was perfect. I would have much rather been at home, but in the end it all turned out well.
Just keep in mind that whichever way you choose to go, that there are NO guarantees. Being in a hospital does not ensure a good outcome. Yes, there are medical professionals there to help in an emergency, but sometimes those same people can push you INTO that emergency with things and time constraints that are unnecessary. Always take the time to make sure your doctors and nurses are there for YOU and YOUR WISHES, not your money. Don't ever let someone tell you that they know your body and your intuition better than you.
On the other hand, a home birth with a great midwife can't ensure a good outcome either. Make sure you take the time to make sure your midwife cares about you and your health, but also that they know what they are talking about as well. Talk to other clients of theirs and find out how many births they've done and their successes AND failures. It all goes back to doing your own research, and always research BOTH sides of a topic. Don't only read things that agree with you. That's counterproductive. There are good things about a home birth and good things about a hospital birth. Nine times out of ten, the best can be brought out of either side if the right people are doing the job.
I could go on this topic forever. I hope I explained my thoughts well and didn't get too confusing. If you have any comments or questions, leave them below. As always, suggestions can be sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A couple of good reads: