Dr. Dina Kulik: The Baby Doctor


What’s Best For You: Home Birth vs Hospital Birth

Before you make your decision, read this!

My first son, Dylan, was born precipitously, meaning fast. From the time my water broke until he was out was about two hours. No epidural. No doctor in the room. My husband caught him with one hand while filming the brief delivery using his other hand. It was intense and unexpected, to say the least.

With this experience under my belt, I thought, "I can totally deliver at home if I need to. We’re experts." I always loved the idea of delivering at home. Personal, comfortable, and intravenous-free. My husband thought otherwise. He thought I was crazy to put myself in a situation where there wasn’t a doc available if I needed one. That is my pragmatic husband.

So on round two, I delivered Ryan in hospital. This time my obstetrician was present, broke my water, and I delivered pretty uneventfully two hours later. But there was a problemRyan was stunned from coming out so fast and wasn’t breathing properly. Much to my chagrin, he was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, hooked up to IVs and a CPAP machine, helping him breath. This was not my plan. I take care of kids in the NICU in my professional life, my child wasn’t supposed to be there. Luckily, Ryan did just perfectly and I got to take him home on day 3.

Now with baby boy number three coming in December, my husband and I discussed yet again delivering at home. He thinks I’m crazy. After all, Ryan did truly need medical attention and could have become ill at home. I argue that the hospital is a mere 10 min drive away.

After much discussion, my husband’s discomfort with the idea of delivering at home has weighed heavily on my mind, and we plan to deliver in hospital. But knowing that I have quick labours and push for mere minutes, if my water breaks at home, I may get my wish after all and deliver in the comfort of my home. In fact, for Ryan and for this baby I had/have a pack of supplies that I will carry with me as a just-in-case.

What’s the deal with home versus hospital births?

I think every parent wants the best delivery experience they can find, and this varies woman to woman and family to family. Every woman should be allowed to chose where she delivers, with the caveat that women with complicated pregnancies or expected complicated deliveries should consider the health and safety of themselves and baby, and consider a hospital delivery.

What is good about hospital deliveries?

Hospital deliveries are usually controlled. The environment is relatively sterile. Should mom require medications or fluids, they are readily available. If baby needs fetal monitoring or medical attention, like with Ryan, it is at the ready. If mom wants pain medications, such as an epidural or medication like Pitocin to make the contractions strong and regular, these are available.

What is bad about hospital deliveries?

Most women in labour are confined to a bed. Food and liquid intake is limited in case you need a Caesarean Section or anaesthesia. Some women experience delayed care in hospital due to other demands at that time with other women in labour or post partum. This was true in my case, as no doctor was present for the delivery of my first. Though the availability of Pitocin is great for some women, others argue that births are not being allowed to happen naturally, and the process is unnecessarily being sped up for the benefit of the hospital and doctor only. Often the number of people taking part in the delivery is limited to one or two, which some women don’t appreciate.

What is good about home births?

Home births allow mom and family to deliver in the comfort of their home. Many have water births or deliver in unconventional positions. Moms often walk around, do not get intravenous access, and have access to food and drink. As many people can be involved and present in the delivery as desired. Many women say the home delivery is a quiet and private experience. The focus is more often on keeping mom comfortable and less on the "medicine" of delivery. Time constraints are lessened with less expectation of when the delivery will be over.

What is bad about home births?

Most would argue that a home birth is a great scenario unless something goes wrong. Baby could get stuck or labour fail to progress. Baby can become unstable and require emergency delivery. Mom may bleed excessively and require treatment. Intravenous fluids, medicines, or surgery may be required. These are some of the many unexpected potentialities of delivery. If this happens at home, without experienced surgeons, outcomes can be bad.

The reality is that most deliveries go well, without much of a hitch. But it is a crapshoot. My son needed emergency care. This certainly wasn’t expected. Many emergency situations are dealt with appropriately in 10-15 minutes when mom and baby can get to the hospital from home. This is how most births were when our grandparents and previous generations had babies.

Do you want a home or hospital birth? What have your experiences been?

The ultimate checklist for everything you need to get before baby arrives and everything moms-to-be need to bring to the hospital.