Objective: The home birth rate in Sweden is less than 1 in 1000, and home birth is not included within the health care system. This study describes women's experiences concerning reactions to their decision to give birth at home. Design and setting: A nationwide survey (SHE - Swedish Homebirth Experience) in Sweden was conducted between 1992 and 2005 whereas 735 women had given birth to 1038 children. Of 1038 questionnaires 1025 were returned. Measurements: In the questionnaires an open-ended question asked women to report their experience of reactions to their decision to give birth at home The question was answered by 594 women, and data were analysed using content analysis. Findings: The analysis yielded one overarching theme; "To be faced with fear for life and death'' including being exposed to reactions about risks. This describes attitudes of professionals and family towards life and death and suggests perceptions of risk and fear of unexpected events. Four main categories were identified; Seen as an irresponsible person, Met with emotional arguments, Exposed to persuasion and Alienation. Conclusion: Women who plan for a home birth were confronted with negative attitudes and persuasion to make them change their mind. This made them feel alienated, and they searched for support among like-minded. Negative attitudes from health care professionals may erode their confidence in conventional health services and turn them towards other options. Implication for practice: Women who want to give birth at home should be given evidence-based information about risks and benefits. Enhanced knowledge among public and professionals about home births would improve the options for respectful encounters. (C) 2011 Australian College of Midwives. Published by Elsevier Australia (a division of Reed International Books Australia Pty Ltd). All rights reserved.