Birthing your baby at home offers many advantages.
During a home birth, you have the comfort of your own surroundings and personal items to hand. You can also focus on self-help techniques and move freely, eating and drinking as you wish. This may help you to relax more, which increases oxytocin levels (important for stimulating contractions).
Your birth partner can be more involved, and they will probably feel more relaxed and confident too. As there is no journey to make, it can be less disruptive. There is also a lower chance of an instrumental birth (using forceps or ventouse) or caesarean birth.
Finally, you can choose who you want for support, including other children if you have them, friends and family (as opposed to one or two birth partners in hospital).
Are there risks with a home birth?
Home birth may not be recommended if you are having twins or your baby is in a breech position. According to The Birthplace study, for first babies there is a small increased risk for women with uncomplicated pregnancies. However the risk itself is small. For second or subsequent babies, home birth has been shown to be no less safe than it is in hospital.
When does the decision need to be made?
You could mention it at your booking appointment, where you will find out if a home birth is suitable for you and your baby, taking into account where you live, procedures in the event of needing transfer to hospital and options for pain management.
However, if you plan to give birth in hospital and want to change to a home birth, you can always do so – just try to give as much notice as possible so that arrangements can be made.
What should be on my home birth checklist?
At least one midwife will come out to you when you are in labour. If she arrives when you are in early labour and you are managing, she may return later on and will usually call a second midwife when you are close to giving birth.
You will need:
- Your maternity notes and contact numbers for the midwifery team.
- Blankets and towels.
- Possibly some old sheets (or plastic ones) to protect the area you plan to birth in,
- Bin bags for laundry and rubbish.
- Maybe a bucket or basin in case you feel sick during labour.
Otherwise, consider the items you would like for your comfort. The midwife will bring everything else. In some areas, the midwife will leave a birth pack off a few weeks before your due date. If you would like to have a birth pool, ask your midwife if these are available or you can usually hire one locally.
What about pain relief options?
Most options for pain relief that would be available to you in hospital should be available for home births. As mentioned, any self-help techniques you may wish to use are likely to be even more straightforward to practise at home, where you are familiar with, and more in control of, your surroundings.
Pain management such as use of a TENS machine, water (whether your own bath or shower or a birth pool), and gas and air (Entonox) should all be open to you. Pethidine or diamorphine, as an injection into your bottom or thigh, may be available for a home birth. Your Trust can confirm this. Epidural is not available as it is administered by an anaesthetist.
What if there’s an emergency or I need to transfer to hospital?
The midwife will be listening in to your baby’s heartbeat regularly and will suggest a transfer to hospital in plenty of time if she has any concerns. In the event of an emergency, an ambulance will be on standby. The typical transfer time will be discussed with you antenatally. The midwife’s kit will include drugs to manage excessive blood loss after birth and resuscitation equipment if needed. She will also be fully trained in the procedures to follow to always ensure the safety of you and your baby. The midwife will usually be able to give you stitches at home if you have a small tear or an episiotomy. It is always advisable to pack a bag in case of needing to transfer, so you aren’t rushing around at the last minute.
If you are considering a home birth and want some more advice, chat to your Peppy practitioner.