MOTHER-of-two Sonia Walker knows all about the pros and cons of having a baby in hospital or at home.
She chose a home birth for her second son Myles last September because she feared overcrowding and being stuck on a ward during the current baby boom.
"I feared there would be a peak in maternity hospital births after the big freeze.
"The idea of being in a big labour ward horrified me so I decided to thoroughly research home birth," she said.
Sonia already had first-hand experience of a busy maternity hospital after giving birth to healthy son Conor at Dublin's Coombe Hospital in 2009.
She says she received the best of care, but found the hospital experience "dreadful".
So when it came to her second child, she opted for a home birth at the family home in Brookmount, Tallaght, Dublin.
During her first pregnancy, Sonia had to be induced in the Coombe. She gave birth in the hospital's delivery suite but she was mindful of the overcrowding in maternity hospitals, which has grown worse in the past couple of years.
"One friend told me she was the seventh mother in a labour ward meant for six," said Sonia.
She missed the freedom of having her partner Stewart by her side so soon after the hospital birth of Conor in the Coombe.
When she found out she was pregnant with Myles, she feared she would end up in one of the congested labour wards.
"I am not anti-maternity hospitals but I was apprehensive about how busy the maternity hospital would be. I researched home birth thoroughly and looked at benefits and risks."
Sonia contacted home midwife Philomena Canning and spoke to her GP. He did not advise her directly to have a home birth but, with no complications in sight, he did not dissuade her either.
"Instead of having to go to the maternity hospital and queue up for blood pressure and other tests Philomena came to my house as often as I needed.
"When I went into labour, I picked up the phone. She was here in 10 minutes."
When Sonia gave birth to Conor in hospital, she had an epidural. But when Myles was born at home, Sonia did not have any pain relief.
"I am not for being a brave soldier -- if you need pain relief, you need it," she says. "But a lot of pain is in perception and I was not fearful. I had a very quick labour and birth."
Sonia added that if she had an uncomplicated pregnancy again, she would definitely opt for a home birth next time, too.