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Is Home Birth for You?

It's not just Cindy Crawford. As many as 25,000 women every year choose to give birth at home. Studies show that a woman who's in good health, experiences an uncomplicated pregnancy, and has adequate medical backup can safely forgo the hospital. If you're considering it:

Find a good midwife.

"The best are those with plenty of experience—at least a couple of hundred deliveries—under their belts," says Tonya Brooks, a licensed midwife in Los Angeles. Ask yours how many deliveries she's attended and what kinds of complications, such as prolonged labor, she's handled on her own. (See "Where to Start" for referrals.)

Have backup.

Many midwives already work with a doctor who can step in if there's an emergency, such as fetal distress or postpartum hemorrhaging. (If yours doesn't, and this makes you uncomfortable, switch.) Visit the backup doctor a few times—he'll be up-to-date on your pregnancy, and you'll feel better if he has to take over.

Learn about labor.

"A woman who knows what to expect during childbirth can often point out when something feels wrong," says Brooks.

Be prepared.

Your midwife will give you a list of supplies you'll need, including several sets of sheets and a plastic cover for the mattress. Check to see what's on her list: She should bring an oxygen tank, IV and blood pressure equipment, and Dopplers to check the baby's heart rate.

Decide who'll be there.

Pick only those people who can help—your midwife, your partner, a pal or relative (to pitch in with chores and childcare).

Giving birth in your own bed requires more effort—both physical and mental—on your part. But for most women who've gone this route, there's no place like home.

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