Before I got pregnant with my first baby I didn’t even realise you could give birth at home. I thought it was something that happened ‘in the olden days’ before standardised medical care because women didn’t really have any other options.
If someone had suggested a home birth to me then, I would have thought they were mad! Are you serious – but birth is so risky, what if something went wrong and you weren’t at hospital.
Obviously, I now know VERY differently.
Currently in the UK only approx. 2% of babies are born at home. Yet statistically they are very safe. For ‘low risk’ mums, giving birth at home is as safe as giving birth at hospital. And the chance of needing a medical intervention (i.e. forceps / ventouse / cesearean) is much lower than a hospital birth (Birth Place Study, 2011).
I know – who’d have thought!
And during more recent times (eh, hmm, hmm, - yes I mean the worldwide pandemic of Corona Virus), there has been a rise in women choosing to have a home birth during covid. Either because they want to stay away from hospital to avoid the risk, or because local trusts have placed restrictions on birth partners attendance etc and women have decided to stay home so that they have more choice over who is with them and how they birth.
So - Should you decide you would like to have your baby at home, these are my top tips for making it a success!
Tip 1. Plan ahead
Have a think about what you would like for your homebirth and get everything you need as early on as possible. Here are a few examples to think about:
Do you want to give birth in water? Do you want to hire a home birth pool, or buy one, or use the bath? How far in advance can you hire a birth pool and how much does it cost etc?
Where in your house would you like to give birth? Will you need to rearrange the furniture or prepare anything for this?
Will you need spare sheets / plastic sheets to protect surfaces etc? Will you need to buy these in advance? What will you do with the mess afterwards?
What will you use to keep the baby warm once they have been born?
What about older children or even pets? Will they be staying for the birth or will someone else look after them? Do you want your toddler present at your home birth? Bear in mind you could be in labour for a decent amount of time. If they’re not staying with you, are they ok to stay somewhere else over night?
Is there a chance that some unexpected visitors might turn up at your house i.e. a neighbour popping round, or a delivery man ringing the doorbell? If this happened would it interrupt your ‘flow’. What could you do to prevent this?
What things might you need for giving birth? I.e. towels, a bowl or bucket for your placenta, food and drink, birth ball etc. Have you thought about how to cut the cord for a home birth? Will the midwife have home birth supplies for this?
Is there a home birth team for your area? Have you spoken to the midwife about it, can they give you any information? (spoiler – yes she can. In some areas dedicated home birth teams offer ‘information sessions’ to give info about what you will need, how it works, when to call the midwife for a home birth etc).
I could go on, but you get the idea. What I’m getting at is, think through all the eventualities and try to plan for them – you don’t want to be phoning grandma to check if she can look after the kids just as you go into labour. You could even write down a list of all the things you need and get them assembled all in one place so it’s ready and waiting for you on the big day.
Tip 2. Do a practice run with equipment
It will save you lots of stress if you AND your birth partner do a practice run and work out how to use any equipment that you have chosen for birth in advance.
For example, if you are hiring a birth pool, I would strongly recommend inflating and filling it in advance so you know how long it takes. Does the tube supplied with it fit on your tap, and is it long enough to reach from your tap to where you want your pool to be? If not, how will you fill it?
Have you got a TENS machine? Have you figured out how to use it yet?
Tip 3. Have a ‘birth bag’ or ‘birth box’ packed just in case
It’s a good idea to have a bag packed with the things you might need to take to hospital just in case you need to transfer*. This is much easier than trying to scramble everything together in the heat of the moment!
Also, it’s just handy to have everything in one place and close to hand for your home birth anyway – so double bonus. You could put it all in a box instead of a bag if you don’t want to introduce the idea that you will end up needing to go to hospital.
*Just a note on this – transfer to hospital for an emergency is very rare. It is more often because the mum decides she wants an epidural for example, which obviously she can’t have at home.
Also, if you have any vaginal tearing (honestly not as bad as it sounds), you might need to go into to hospital after the birth for some stitches (also not as bad as it sounds – you probably won’t even notice as you’ll be high on oxytocin and smitten with your new baby).
Tip 4. Think about hiring a Doula or Private midwife with lots of home birth experience
Many hospital trusts now have dedicated home birth teams that are extremely experienced in facilitating women to give birth at home. However, not all do. And if you’re in an area where home births are rare, the midwives might be less confident about supporting you at home.
If this is the case, and if you have the budget, you might want to think about hiring a doula or a private midwife, as they are much more likely to have attended lots of home births and be confident in providing you with excellent home birth care and advice.
Tip 5. Pre-plan comfort measures
I mentioned TENS machines above as one possible comfort measure. But did you know that your midwife can bring Entonox (gas and air) with her? You can also request a prescription for stronger pain relief in advance, such as pethidine, from your GP if you think it’s something you would like to have available to you at home. Simply collect your prescription and keep it in the fridge, and the midwife will be able to administer it if you want it when the time comes.
You might also want to look into alternative comfort measures you could do at home such as aromatherapy and massage. And has anyone heard of ‘robozo’. Have a google and see if it’s something you fancy.
And that’s it. My top 5 tips for a smooth-running home birth. I’d love to know if you have any more to add! If you want more information about your home birth choices, I would strongly recommend speaking to your midwife to see what the options are in your area.
Also, a great website about this topic is www.homebirth.org.uk or this NCT article here https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/deciding-where-give-birth/giving-birth-home/home-birth-faqs
Thanks for reading, Take care, Lauren.