Home birth always seemed right to Karla Swartzbaugh.
She grew up next door to her aunt, who delivered most of her nine children at home, and remembers visiting soon after her cousins were born.
"It was a happy and relaxed environment, and it just seemed natural to me," said Swartzbaugh, 27, of Jackson Township.
She and her husband, Scott, 34, have two children. Leo, 3, was born via an emergency cesarean section at a hospital, but Persephone, 2, was a pre-planned home birth.
As it turns out, their daughter was part of a trend.
Home births in the United States increased by 29 percent from 2004 to 2009, the most recent year for which data are available from the Centers for Disease Control.
It provides the option of being with as few or as many of your friends and family as you would like, she said.
She also liked being able to help her body through the labor process any way she wanted -- even if that meant getting things done around the house like laundry and cleaning.
She could allow her body to do what it needed to in its
own time without intervention.
"My labor was so easy. I know not everyone's goes as smoothly, so I am not here to discredit those hard labors. Your attitude going in helps immensely," said Swartzbaugh.
Comfort: She said she hopes her experience helps dispel the myth that movies and television have perpetuated about childbirth being a traumatic experience.
When Jen Dettinger was pregnant with her first daughter, she hoped for a natural and drug-free labor and delivery in the hospital. Instead, her labor was induced nine days past her due date at York Hospital.
During her second pregnancy, Dettinger, 31, and her husband Derric, 31, prepared for a home birth with a midwife.
"Women tend to be more comfortable on their own turf, which can make labor easier," said Jen Dettinger.
Everything about it was empowering, she said, and provided a calm transition for her daughter, Nora, who is now 5 months old. Climbing into your own bed after the birth was another perk, she added.
Jen delivered Nora in a birthing pool she had purchased, with her husband in the water, and caught Nora in the water with her own hands. She was the first to hold her daughter and announce the baby was a girl.
"It was such a special moment. I feel so blessed to have experienced it in that way," Jen said.
Midwives: Familiar surroundings and familiar caregivers are the main reasons home birth appeals to many, said Holly Keich, owner of Om Baby in Camp Hill, Pregnancy and Parenting Center, at 2201 Market St. in Camp Hill.
The business offers workshops and seminars on parenting and related topics, including question-and-answer sessions on home birth.
Working with a midwife also eliminates worries about whether the doctor you prefer will be on call when you go into labor, Keich said.
"There is no break in the rhythm of labor by leaving your home since your provider comes to you," said Keich.
She advises anyone considering a home birth to do their research and learn about their provider.
Laura Shive, of East Manchester Township, had two of her four children at home.
After talking to someone from a home birth center in Virginia, she decided to try home birth for her third child.
When she and her husband met with a local midwife, they were even more convinced and had an excellent experience each time, Shive said.
"Other people don't understand," said Shive. "Misconceptions about the risks are quite widespread."
Mary McLane, a certified nurse midwife serving York, Lancaster, Dauphin and Cumberland counties, has seen evidence of the increasing popularity of home births. The CDC numbers show about one in every 90 births to non-Hispanic white women is a home birth.
McLane began practicing midwifery 12 years ago and has gone from helping with one home birth a month to an average of 50 each year. She anticipates assisting with 55 home births this year.
"Pretty much all of the midwives that I know are experiencing this and have more clients," McLane said.
McLane decided to become a midwife after she gave birth to her second and third children at home.
"The midwives who helped me were some of the first women I had ever really, really admired, and I thought that what they did was really amazing," she said. "I gradually realized it wasn't that easy to find a midwife, and it just seemed like something I could do."
Facing a lack of support from family and friends is often the biggest roadblock for people considering home birth, she said.
As far as cost, a home birth does not differ a lot from a hospital birth, she added.
Home birth is not a good option for someone with a lot of medical issues or concerns, McLane explained.
On the other hand, she said "there is an indefinable feeling of having accomplished something really big by having a natural birth, and I think it is easier to accomplish that at home.
"In the hospital, it can be a cascade of intervention," she said. "Whereas at home some caregivers you are familiar with are there to help you get through those moments."
"When you go in the hospital they take your clothes, you pee in a cup and they strap you down to the monitors. It is pretty clear that this is someone else's space," McLane said. "At home you don't have to worry about that. It is your space. You don't have to ask to go to the bathroom or what you can eat. You just do whatever you want to do."
Home birth facts from the Centers for Disease Control:
-- Home births declined from 1990 to 2004, but they are now at the highest level since data on home births was first collected in 1989.
-- The majority of home births are planned.
-- 1 in every 90 births to non-Hispanic white women are home births.
-- There has been a 36 percent increase in non-Hispanic white women having home births from 2004 to 2009, the year for which the most recent data is available.
-- Reach Chelsea Shank at 505-5432 or email@example.com