Home birth trend growing in Indiana

Brian Coon and his wife, Rebecca Gapinski, gave birth to William in their home.

Giving birth at home is a hotly-debated topic that some call natural, while others say it's "risky."

He's only 11 days old, but if he could talk, William Gapinski Coon could already say he's done something his two older siblings haven't. William came into the world in a tub, at home, right in his parent's bedroom.

"We told people we were having a home birth and they looked at us like we were, like we were insane and asked us if we're crazy," said William's father, Brian.

They're not crazy, say Brian and mom Rebecca. They're just part of a growing, but controversial, trend - parents choosing to have their babies at home instead of a hospital.

"They think that it's like the 1800s again and there's just a boiling pot of water, some rags and its not like that anymore," explained Rebecca.

Instead, Rebecca labored in an inflatable tub of water with a certified nurse midwife and her assistant from Home4Birth, a local midwifery practice in business since 2001.

"What most people would be surprised about is not the unusual fringes that we sometimes serve. It's the more common, double-income, working Castleton, Fishers, Carmel, Westfield, the people who you could look at and think they might choose any differently than anybody else," said Brandi Wood the owner of Home4Birth.

Wood, a certified professional midwife, and her team have helped deliver more than 750 babies since they opened.

"Home birth is only for healthy, low-risk, normal women. It isn't for everyone and we would never try and sell it to anyone," said Wood.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, 30,000 women gave birth at home in 2009. That's still less than one percent of all births in the United States that year. Almost 1,100 of those births happened in Indiana.  

"In our society, we view birth as an emergency," said certified nurse midwife Sandy Bailey. "As a society, we don't realize how normal birth can be and should be for the majority of women."

Home4Birth recognizes, though, emergencies during labor do come up.  Wood and her team carry an emergency kit to every birth. That kit includes equipment to resuscitate a baby who's not breathing, as well as IVs and medicine for a mother who has lost too much blood.

"Yes, can something go wrong. Do we anticipate it? No. Do we do everything in our power to spot it? Absolutely," said Wood.

Home4Birth encourages its clients to have a hospital picked out as a back-up plan.

One group that doesn't seem to be changing its mind on how it looks at home birth is The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They still believe hospitals and birthing centers linked to hospitals are the safest place for babies to be born.

"They basically showed that home delivery, you know, caused more risk to the baby with an increase in neonatal death by two or three times," said Dr Men-Jean Lee, IU Health's Director of Maternal and Fetal Medicine.

Lee said home birth is highly controversial in the medical community, because of how unpredictable labor and delivery can be.

"The labor is going well and, all of a sudden, part of the baby comes out and the rest of it is not coming out," Lee said of the complications that can arise out of nowhere.

"If it's a 10-minute ride to get to the hospital and the baby's head is stuck, that 10 minutes is going to be a huge difference between life and death," she added.

Lee believes a hospital and its technology provide a safety net you just don't get at home.

"Why not take advantage of it?" Lee said.

Rebecca and Brian say they would have if an emergency had arisen. 

"We both would have been glad, glad to take William to the hospital if that's what it meant to have a safe delivery," said Brian.

Thankfully for these parents and little William, a safe delivery turned out to be a delivery right at home.