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Home birth: Is it the right option for you?

Today more than ever, it is a healthy alternative

When Antonia Kannengiesser was pregnant with her daughter Sofi, now two and a half, she was not ready for home birth. “I knew I wanted a natural childbirth, and that Northern Dutchess was supportive of that, and pro-breastfeeding, so it was the only place to go.”

Almost two years later, Kannengiesser prepared to deliver her second child. After seeing the documentary The Business of Being Born and with the encouragement of doula Mary Riley, who attended Sofi’s birth, she decided to do it at home. She once again enlisted Riley, and chose “The Susans” — Susanrachel “Birdie” Condon, CNM, LM and Susan Rannestad, CPM, LM, CM — of River and Mountain Midwives. Her husband was nervous about the choice to birth at home, but as the pregnancy progressed and their relationship with the midwives grew, he relaxed.

When she went into labor at 7am on a Tuesday in December, Kannengiesser took her daughter to school, went grocery shopping, and watched a movie with her husband and sister. By 11pm she was in active labor, on all fours on the stairs, with Riley by her side while her husband tended to Sofi upstairs. Eventually she moved into the birthing tub set up in the living room, and after a 20-minute nap there — what is called the “rest and be thankful period” — she woke up and began to push, and son Magnus was born that night underwater.


READ MORE: Bringing baby home has to be planned. We can show you how.

Kannengiesser felt even the occasional checks required at a birth center interrupted her rhythms. “I needed to just be able to do it. At home while I was in the tub, the midwife asked if I wanted to be checked to see how far dilated I was and I said ‘no,’ so she sat down and kept knitting. They had total confidence in me and my body, and seeing that boosted my confidence.” That confidence is the defining force behind the midwifery model, which home birth fully embodies.


“As women actually use their voice and their power and see that they are major players, they see that the medical system is not necessarily the best guide for what’s ‘normal,’” explains Jenna Houston, CNM, MS. “Midwives — experts in normal — work with what’s working, know how to keep things normal, know how to nurture and support the intelligence of the body.”

READ MORE: Pick the birthing option that is right for you

An increasingly popular practice


Houston, who has been assisting home births in the Hudson Valley since 1972, says that they are on the rise again. Though home births accounted for half of all births in the U.S. in 1938, today they account for less than one percent. Often criticized as reckless and unsafe, statistically home births are as safe as a hospital birth. According to Houston, home birth midwives come equipped with IVs, oxygen, emergency drugs, and a wealth of knowledge on how to best usher a woman through the physical and emotional demands of childbirth.


Home birth benefits include:


  • Cost-around $10,000 for a normal vaginal delivery in a hospital. A midwife costs about half that, a fee which includes prenatal home visits, and postpartum and newborn care. No travel stress while in labor. “[Traveling to the hospital] You’re yanking yourself out of your nest — it’s not in the flow,” says Houston.
  • You’re not around any of the germs that linger in hospitals, including MRSA, or You’re not connected to unnecessary technology solely for the sake of protocol.
  • You are not sharing doctors or nurses with other laboring women, and you can enjoy the privacy of your own home, in the company of as many (or as few) of your loved ones as you’d like.
  • You are able enjoy your newest family member without having to think about transitioning home.

New York is not one of the 33 States that allow freestanding birth centers unaffiliated with any hospital. New York State assemblywoman Amy Paulin recently sponsored a bill that would repeal New York’s requirement that midwives have a “written practice agreement” with a doctor or hospital. The bill made it through Assembly and Senate committees in early June, but is now stalled because of opposition from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Find a home birth midwife practicing in your area.