As the saying goes, there’s no place like home. Closing your eyes and clicking your heels together may or may not help with labour pains, but the reassurance of being at home could. That’s why some women choose to deliver their babies in their own house, instead of a hospital.
Maybe you’ve been considering a home birth and want to know a bit more about what is involved, or perhaps it’s never occurred to you. To help you get a better idea, I’ve put together this blog about how to be prepared if you decide to give birth at home.
is a home birth right for me?
There are plenty of personal reasons why women may want to have a home birth. Perhaps you really don’t like hospitals, or want to have more control over your own birth with fewer interventions. Maybe you want to have more than one birth partner, and don’t want to be separated from your older children. Or you might want to use a birth pool and your local hospital can’t guarantee you’ll be able to use one there.
Whatever your reason for choosing a home birth, the priority should always be the health of you and your baby. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises that home births are best suited for ‘low risk’ pregnancies (i.e. one with no previous obstetric complications) where mum has already had a baby. That’s because there’s a small increase in the risk to your baby if you deliver your first one at home.
If you’re considering having a home birth, it’s important to speak to your midwife or GP. They’ll be able to offer advice and tell you if it’s a safe option for you and your baby.
how to arrange a home birth
It’s no secret that the more information you have, the more relaxed you’ll be. If you decide that a home birth is right for you, it’s time to get organising. During your first antenatal check you can start to discuss your birth plan options. Choosing to not give birth in the hospital doesn’t mean you’ll be going at it alone; you can still have support from the NHS. A home birth can be organised with your local midwife or family doctor, or privately through an independent midwife.
One of the reasons home births are so great is that you and your partner will get to know a team of 2 to 8 NHS midwives, two of whom will be present at your birth. That way, you’ll have another friendly face to share the special day with and an experienced shoulder to cry on. If you don’t know where to find a midwife, you can ask at your local GP if they have one attached to the clinic. You can also write to the head of midwifery at your local hospital to get in touch with one. If you’d rather go private, you’ll have to pay for an independent midwife, but if there are any complications during delivery they can accompany you to an NHS hospital.
what do i need for a home birth?
Part of the appeal of going to a hospital is knowing that everything is there, ready for your delivery when you go into labour. But don’t worry, choosing to give birth at home doesn’t mean you need to turn your living room into a delivery ward. You don’t need to buy any specialist equipment. Your midwife will normally give you a home birth kit nearer your due day. Just ask if there’s anything else she'd like you to supply.
As your birth date approaches, it’s helpful to get the following items handy so you don’t have to scrabble for them when your water breaks!
• Phone numbers of your midwife team • The number of someone to look after older children if you have them • Something to wrap baby up in when they arrive • Plenty of towels if you’re using a birth pool • Things to create a soothing atmosphere: music, soft lights, scented candles etc • Flannels and hair ties • A birthing or exercise ball • Snacks and drinks for you and the midwives (it could take a while!) • An emergency bag just in case you're transferred to hospital
Many people who opt for a home birth choose to buy or hire a birth pool. While it’s absolutely not an essential, a water birth can be a lovely way to welcome your new babe to the world. It’s really helpful if your partner can take responsibility for getting the pool ready with a comfortable water temperature as it can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re focussing on your contractions! Making sure they’re familiar with your birth plan is a really nice way for them to feel actively involved on the day, even if they can’t be the one pushing the baby out!
what about the mess?
One of the biggest concerns for people considering a home birth is the mess. Many of us think that giving birth at home will result in a biblical river of blood covering the carpet, the walls, and that one really nice pillow that you like. In fact, most home births produce only a small mess, and even that can be easily cleaned if you’re properly prepared.
My top tip would be to cover your surfaces. Your midwife will probably bring some large disposable pads, but you can also double up with waterproof sheeting, a shower curtain or a waterproof tablecloth. If you have some old sheets you no longer need, these can also be used as a more comfortable covering.
Perhaps the most important thing is to keep calm, even when those first contractions hit. Hopefully, all your preparations will soon pay off and you’ll get to meet your new addition in the comfort of your own home!