The state of maternal health in Kenya is gradually changing. At a point in time maternal mortality rate was 362 deaths per 100,000 live births (Kenya Demographic Health Survey, 2014). Free maternal health programs, the Beyond Zero campaigns, Linda Mama, and subsidized costs under the NHIF (National Health Insurance Fund) program have drastically reduced the rate of women and children dying during delivery. Despite the availability of these platforms, a number women are shying away from hospitals and opting to deliver their baby at home. How safe is it? Is it in any way contributing to an increase in maternal mortality rates?
Any delivery done in a place other than the hospital is considered a home birth. Several Kenyans equate home births with remote villages and traditional birth assistants where the probability of survival for both the mother and the baby is minimal. However, with modernization and simulating the west, the outlook of home deliveries is gradually changing. There is a transition from (untrained) traditional midwives to doulas and experts in midwifery. Also, unlike the perception that it was a thing for the economically challenged, financially advantaged women are opting for home deliveries.
The current COVID pandemic and horrifying hospital tales have resulted with an increase of women opting for home deliveries. There’s also a desire to be comfortable and have a private and relaxed experience where friends and family can be present. Unlike in a hospital setup where pain can be managed beforehand by having an epidural, for home births, the mother-to-be is encouraged to labor in a pool of water and to practice deep focused breathing. There are benefits attached to this mode of delivery.
- Fewer maternal infections
- Lowered risk of perineal tears as the mother is encouraged to flow with the labor
- Ability to be surrounded by family and friends
- Control over birth decisions
- More privacy
- Increased bonding with the baby
- Lower cost compared to some private hospitals
If considering this birthing process, getting the go-ahead from your doctor is necessary. Among factors to consider are;
- The mother to be must be anticipating a spontaneous vaginal birth
- A trained birth attendant must be present for adequate maternal and fetal monitoring and to detect any unexpected abnormalities that may warrant immediate transfer to the hospital
- The designated delivery room ought to be spacious, well-lit, and hygienic
- Have plans in place for prompt hospital transfer if complications arise
- Your partner’s support towards the process
- An uncomplicated pregnancy. The mother should not be diabetic, hypertensive, obese, have preeclampsia, had a previous cesarean delivery, have a low-lying placenta, experienced pre-term labor, carrying multiples, and baby being in a breech or transverse position.
Every mom-to-be should have the birth experience she desires as long as the mother and baby are safe at the end of the day.