1. Choose midwifery care
Toronto families have a choice of whether to deliver and be cared for prenatally and postnatally by an obstetrician, family doctor, or registered midwife. The benefits of midwifery care in Ontario are tremendous, and if you don’t already know, I’ll list a few amazing pros here:
Ontario Midwives have a 17% cesarean section rate, which is far lower than the provincial c-section rate of 28%. Most Toronto Hospitals including Mount Sinai and St. Michael’s Hospital have a c-section rate of 30% or higher. The midwife-led Toronto Birth Centre has the lowest c-section rate of 7.7%
Ontario Midwives have a 34% epidural rate, much lower than most Toronto hospitals which exceed an 80% epidural rate - if you’re hoping to avoid an epidural and the risks associated with it (including “failure to progress,” migraines, etc.), midwifery care is the way to go.
Most midwives offer in-home postnatal visits, meaning your newborn baby may not need to come into a germ-ridden hospital or doctor’s office for their initial check-ups, and parents can stay in the comfort of their homes.
Midwives promote informed-choice and, from my personal experience, are more likely to follow evidence-based labour and delivery strategies and techniques.
If you have a midwife and require additional medical attention, you will have an obstetrician added to your team and any required pain medications (e.g. epidural) available to you, but you won’t miss out on the best of midwifery care - best of both worlds!!
Midwives are highly qualified and carry with them the same equipment that a level one hospital would provide, so you and your baby are not at risk if you birth at home. It’s good to note that home births in Ontario are just as safe, if not safer, than hospital deliveries for low-risk deliveries.
2. Learn about natural birth and the benefits - understand what your body can do!
Hiring a doula for prenatal care and/or attending midwife-led prenatal classes will help you build your confidence and knowledge base around physiological childbirth and birthing at home. Women’s bodies have delivered babies without medication from the beginning of time, often without complications. In fact, women who deliver in hospitals are more likely to have unnecessary complications than women who deliver at home with midwives.
Some excellent resources for families hoping for a home delivery include:
Orgasmic Birth, the documentary - why, yes! Women can have orgasms during childbirth! This movie provides amazing insight into female sexuality and the fact that birth uses all the same hormones and organs that are involved in orgasm. When the right environment and support is provided, and when women trust in their bodies without a doubt, pain can be transformed into pleasure. Some women don’t experience any pain at all! Birth can be a psychedelic, out-of-body, ecstatic experience for many.
Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth - an inspiring book that begins with pages upon pages of positive birth stories. Every pregnant individual needs to read positive birth stories. It’s the best way to learn, gain confidence, and to understand what it really means to deliver a baby.
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, by Dr. Sarah Buckley - much research went into this book that promotes “undisturbed birth” and emphasizes the overuse of technology (including ultrasounds) in today’s prenatal, birth, and postnatal care. Sarah herself, a family physician, delivered all four of her children at home.
Labyrinth of Birth… by Pam England gives expectant parents some tools, meditations, and insights into preparation for natural delivery.
3. Practice yoga and get in touch with your breath
The successful home births and unmedicated deliveries I’ve attended have been with women who are very in touch with their bodies and their breaths. One incredible, smooth home delivery I participated in was that of my yoga teacher. Being able to tap into a deep, controlled breath pattern while utilizing hip-opening yoga stretches allows for deeper relaxation and surrender to the birth process. Practicing yoga once a week is a great place to start. Better yet, practice yoga every day and make sure to find a teacher you connect with who helps you get there.
Understand that deep breathing (and chanting and singing) is not only an important focus tool - it also increases oxytocin levels in the body promoting a smoother and faster birth. Keeping your jaw loose throughout labour may also help prevent tearing of the perineum during crowning/delivery.
4. Prepare your home
Welcoming a baby at home means more than just preparing the nursery, although it’s a lot less complicated than you might think. Pick up a waterproof mattress cover for your bed (or tuck a cheap shower curtain under your fitted sheet) and top your bed with a set of old sheets. Have some large garbage bins/bags handy for the midwives. If you don’t have a good sized tub in your home, you might consider renting a birthing pool from your midwives or doula. Have a stack of large towels and face cloths ready, and perhaps some olive oil (for your perineum!). In case of a long delivery, it’s ideal to have some food/snacks on hand for yourself, your midwives, and your doula. Also, create a music playlist that will inspire and calm you during labour and have speakers handy. A birth ball and some hot/cold packs may also come in handy.
For an in-depth checklist for preparing for a home birth, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll forward you my latest copy. But really, there’s not much you need. Home births are quite minimal and environmentally friendly (so give yourself a pat on the back for all the unnecessary waste you’ll save). Just a load of laundry or two at the end and you’ll be all tidied up.
5. Hire a doula
Not only is the prenatal coaching of a doula invaluable when preparing for a home birth, whether it’s your first delivery or your fifth, doulas provide guidance, emotional support, and physical comfort during your labour and delivery. Maintaining a calm space during birth should be the expertise of your doula. Helping you transform pain into pleasure and being your gentle reminder to breathe and soften during labour is also what doulas do best. Consider meeting with your doula at least a few times before your delivery so you have an opportunity to build trust and appreciate your doulas unique comfort tools. She’ll help you tremendously after the birth too!
If you’re hoping for a home delivery in Toronto or surrounding areas, contact me directly for prenatal, birth, and postpartum support. You can do it!