Home Births: Why Are More Women Choosing It Over C-Section?

Why are some urban women opting for home births? The Natural birthing movement gains ground in India. 

4 min read

Holding a precious life you’ve given birth to, tears roll down your face, your fears melt away, and it’s as if nothing else exists other than you and your baby. Birthing, as they say, is the most beautiful miracle.

A wide angle of this picture tells a different story – men and women in hospital robes, bright blinding lights, the hum of the machines, the mother lying on a cold operation table.

Having experienced two cesarean births, I have always been fascinated by stories of women who’ve chosen to give birth at home.


Home births: Personal stories

Mansi Ashta, a physiotherapist from Mumbai, is a mother of two. Both her children were born naturally. The second in the cozy comfort of her own home.

Assisted by two midwives from Mumbai Midwives, Mansi had a water birth at her home. Her husband helped by refilling the tub with water, while the midwives took her through various steps. Her labour lasted over 20 hours. A few minutes after Seha was born, her elder brother Sahib was with them, holding and hugging his baby sister and his mother.

I did it for my son. I wanted him to be around, to know where his sister has come from, and how it’s all natural.
Mansi Ashta, Chose home birth
Why are some urban women opting for home births? The Natural birthing movement gains ground in India. 
Mansi opted for a home birth for her second child. (Photo Courtesy: Mansi Ashtaj) 

But what drove her to choose home birth? She says it was the indifference and the lack of respect for her choices from the five gynaecologists she visited.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I went through five different gynaecologists. Each time, I felt they didn’t respect my birth plan. By the time I found a gynaecologist I was comfortable with, I was in my last trimester. I had a natural birth at a hospital, but when I got pregnant again, I was certain I wanted to give birth at home.
Mansi Ashta, Chose home birth

How does home birthing work?

In Mansi’s case, her midwives were involved from day one. They made home visits once a month, they monitored the growth, and they worked with Mansi’s gynaecologist .

This collaboration is crucial for anyone planning a home birth.

Why are some urban women opting for home births? The Natural birthing movement gains ground in India. 
Mansi, assisted by midwives, chose to have a water birth in her own home. (Photo Courtesy: Mansi Ashtaj)

Before the actual birth, the midwives make sure the room is sterile, they arrive with injections, sutures, oxygen and a fetal heart monitor. And in case of an emergency, they keep the hospitals informed.

They also go back to the house for postnatal and breastfeeding care.

An evaluation of 15 different studies reveal,

Women who received midwife-led continuity of care were less likely to have an epidural. In addition, fewer women had episiotomies or instrumental births. Women’s chances of a spontaneous vaginal birth were also increased, and there was no difference in the number of cesarean births.

Natural births in India

The Dutch have the highest percentage of home births in the world, with nearly 30 percent of the babies born at home. This is supported by a robust medical system that actively encourages home births, backed by a strong network of midwives and doulas.

But India follows a medical care route, meaning the emphasis is on obstetrics. Dr Puneet Bedi, a gynaecologist based out of Delhi, says India has no system of midwives.

In the absence of a system, those who choose to have home births are probably making an extreme political statement 
Dr Puneet Bedi, Gynaecologist, Apollo Indraprastha Hospital

Ruth Malik started Birth India, after two traumatic C-Sections. Her personal experience led her to research the high levels of cesarean births being carried out in India, specially in private hospitals.

According to a recent report,

The WHO standard for C-Sections for a country is 10 to 15 percent. In Indian, in private hospitals alone, the rate is nearly 31 percent.

Dr Bedi feels the number is much higher, in some cases, close to 70 percent. A lack of proper audit of hospitals, convenience, and greed of doctors has pushed the C-Section rates to an alarming level.


A rural urban divide

A recent India Spend report points out that nearly 47 percent women are pushed below poverty line due to costs linked to childbearing expenses.

And in rural and urban poor areas, where home births are the norm, it’s the lack of awareness, facilities and support that leads to a high maternal mortality rate.

It’s a double whammy for them.

Natural birth movement gaining ground

Home births are rare, but the natural birth movement is gaining ground, supported by mothers, doctors and activists.

A recent petition by Subarna Ghosh has collected nearly one lakh supporters who want to make it mandatory for all doctors and hospitals to declare the percentage of cesarean delivery rates to patients.

The most important thing is to address fears, women can do it. We need to give them confidence in their bodies and their abilities.
Ruth Malik, Birth India

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More