Pregnancy & Birth

Why Home Birth Matters

Why Home Birth Matters by Natalie Meddings

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the premise of this book, which is why I wanted to read it. I buy in the idea of home birth and I understand that hospital births are relatively new. However, despite everything, it is hard for first time mothers to visualise birth at home and even harder for their partners and family. Natalie Meddings brings a refreshingly balanced view to this conversation. Her style is quite clearly friendly and approachable, yet she brings across the nuances of the complexities of home birth rather well in this edition of the brilliant ‘Why it Matters’ series.

Natalie doesn’t paint an extreme and wonderful picture of home birth as a lot of books and proponents of this ideology tend to do. She does not dismiss the need and place for medical intervention and that makes this book stand out amongst the general chatter of hyperbole of either extreme when it comes to home birth.

I like the structure of the book very much. Natalie addresses the loaded nature of this conversation quite early on in the book. This makes the rest of her arguments a lot more comprehensible. I enjoyed reading the little personal stories that were interspaced in the book at relevant times to make the reader feel that home births have different sides, different flavours and in general unlike hospital births they don’t tend to follow a particular agenda. That’s actually one of the highlights of this book, it comfortably accommodates the variety of births that happen within a home setting.

The sections on planning and organising the home birth are brilliant. Natalie hasn’t forgotten any aspect of preparation or for that matter the need to not prepare when considering a home birth. Her guidance, issued in a calm inclusive manner makes the reader feel that home birth is for anyone, not just a certain type of woman and family. I was not at all surprised to find the fantastic teachings of Spinning Babies movement included here. They are peerless when it comes to understanding optimal foetal positioning and its impact on labour and childbirth. What was surprising however, was the lack of credit given to the organisation for their work. Spinning Babies does not even make the reading list.

At this point I would like to disclose that neither am I pregnant at the time of reading nor inexperienced at either home or hospital birth. I have had both. So, I am reading this book with the benefit of hindsight. This is perhaps an important aspect of this review. I see how all the elements in the book will help a mother consider her birthing environment. In that respect, I do depart from Ms Meddings on a couple of points, but these are just differences in opinion. I would have liked a bit more importance being placed on the topic of considering neighbours/landlords rather than a dismissive, ‘birthing sounds are deep rather than high pitched and thus the neighbours are unlikely to be an issue’. This is the kind of writing that sometimes makes women feel they might be unsuitable for home birth. If they are first time mothers, they may be unsure of what sounds they will make and if they have experienced birth before they are more likely to use that past experience to make judgement calls on how they will behave in subsequent births. Each birth is different and thus allowing for a roaring birth experience should be included in the normal repertoire of births, including home births. How else will we make women feel empowered with any birth experience they end up having?
Along these same lines is the advice of not telling people you are planning a home birth, does disservice in spreading the wonderful concept that this whole book is about! Why shy away from a chance to have a meaningful conversation and help other women consider this choice too? In fact, wouldn’t it be a perfect opportunity to recommend a gem of a book such as this one?!

Despite these omissions Natalie Meddings has packed a big punch in the conversation of birthing preferences. I would recommend this book for the little simple tips alone if you are considering birthing your baby at home. Along the way you will find a strong evidence-based argument in favour of home births that will empower you to spread the word and bring back the confidence we women need to speak up about our choices when it comes to our bodies, our babies and our wellbeing.

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