Women who book Airbnb for their home births

“We were perfect guests – we cleaned up and left the place spotless. You would never have guessed that I was on all fours in a bathtub giving birth to a child.

At the end of last year, Jenna, 28, was nearing the due date of her second child. Her plan was to give birth at home with the help of a midwife, but because she lives in rural Texas, her midwife insisted that she give birth closer to a hospital just in case. where something would go wrong. “We researched what options we had and saw some women recommending renting an Airbnb,” she tells me.

And so, Jenna and her husband booked an Airbnb a few blocks from the city hospital. “It was a nice loft apartment with a big bath and a bedroom,” she tells me. “Everyone online said to find a place where we would be comfortable.”

Due to the pandemic, the number of people choosing to have their babies at home rather than in hospital has exploded. According to the CDC, the percentage of home births in the United States reached 1.26% in 2020, a 22% increase from 2019, as many expectant parents feared contracting COVID in hospital settings or wanted to avoid birth restrictions. hospital visit. And while most hospitals are less burdened by COVID in recent months, experts see no signs of slowing in home birth rate. As for the role of Airbnbs, some opt for them because they want more space than they would get while giving birth at home, while others, like Jenna, seek easier access to a hospital or to emergency care.

Admittedly, Airbnb stipulates in its Terms of use that Guests “are responsible for informing the Host of any medical or physical conditions, or other circumstances that may impact your ability to participate in, attend, or use the Host Service.” Airbnb has not yet responded to my request for comment on whether the intention to give birth falls under such circumstances. But Airbnb hosts often take to the company’s common forum to talk about guests giving birth at home and seek advice from other hosts.

“On [the guests’] arrival we were completely overwhelmed that the lady was 38 weeks pregnant and had chosen our property with the idea of ​​being closer to motherhood,” writes Nicole, an Airbnb host in Ireland. “Not only are we not particularly close to the hospital, but we are in no way prepared for medical emergencies at this level, nor trained to help with a possible home birth!”

Whereas there is a rich history of home births taking place in hotels, Airbnb hosts are reasonably wary of insurance liabilities and biohazardous conditions that could follow a home birth taking place in their rental. “Hotels do not ask the purpose of their stay [because they are] corporate-owned chains (usually), backed by huge amounts of insurance. Private homes are not,” responds another host on the Airbnb host forum. “I believe that every host has the right to know why someone is staying in their home AS WELL AS the right to know when the intended purpose will involve the arrival of special equipment or the arrival of multiple guests, or will involve a procedure normally reserved for hospitals. .”

Like Nicole’s guests in Ireland, Jenna failed to inform her host that she was planning to give birth in the unit. “I didn’t think there would be any property damage, and if there was, I would pay for it,” she says. “Also, my midwife had liability insurance, so that wasn’t going to be a problem.”

About two weeks into her stay, Jenna’s waters finally broke. “My midwife had set up a birthing pool in the living room, but I was more comfortable on the sofa bed in the basement where it was cooler,” she says. “That’s when my contractions really started to get intense.” After being convinced, Jenna’s midwife and husband helped her into the pool and within an hour her daughter was born. “Once she decided it was time to go, she was ready to go,” Jenna says. “My midwife put it on my chest, and it was all so magical.”

Jenna was able to give birth to her daughter with no problem and enjoyed a few extra days in the comfort of her Airbnb without needing to travel to a nearby hospital. Statistically speaking, however, home births are more dangerous than those that take place in a hospital setting. By research published in 2020, “nearly 14 newborns per 10,000 live births died as a result of planned home births”, a number that is “more than four times that of babies born in hospitals”. Additionally, the study found that “almost half of women who planned home births end up being transferred to hospital.”

And although Jenna, her husband and her midwife left Airbnb a few days later with no problem, not all Airbnb home births go so well. AJ, an Airbnb host who rents out the other half of his duplex in Canada, says he first learned his guests had given birth at his home when paramedics knocked on his door. “I was caught off guard and didn’t know what was going on until my guests came downstairs and let the paramedics know everything was fine but the baby wasn’t latching on,” he told me.

Although AJ is happy that the baby and the mother are healthy, he was angry when he learned that it was not a surprise birth – his guests had planned the delivery to take place at his home when they booked it – but they didn’t. tell him in advance, and he was left to clean up the mess. “The paramedics took them to the hospital anyway, and when I came upstairs I found a pile of bloody towels in the tub and sheets strewn all over the bathroom floor,” he says. “It was traumatic, honestly. Never in a million years would I have thought this would happen to me in my home. Luckily it all went well, but I stopped renting my house for a long time after that. .

As for Jenna, her perfect guest rating on Airbnb remains intact, and her hosts were none the wiser. “I just checked, and I don’t have any negative reviews or private comments, so I think she left me a 5-star review,” she says. “The few weeks we were there we were perfect guests; we cleaned up and left the place spotless so you would never have guessed i was on all fours in a tub giving birth to a child.

With that, Jenna tells me she won’t hesitate to recommend others rent an Airbnb for their delivery. “I couldn’t have done that because I live so far from a hospital, [so] any moms who want to give birth at home should definitely consider renting a furnished house near the hospital if they can afford it,” she says.

However, helped by hindsight and reading about the experiences of others, Jenna says she thinks people should let Airbnb hosts know before giving birth at home. “At the very least,” she concludes, “it will help avoid any unnecessary drama.

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