Across the UK, roughly 2% of births happen at home. In England, that’s one in every 40 births. This may seem a relatively small number, but year on year more women are choosing to birth their babies in the comfort of their own home than opting for a hospital birth.
If you’re considering a home birth, then you’re probably aware of all the wonderful benefits birthing in a familiar environment can bring. But that doesn’t mean to say you won’t have questions. So here we’ve put together a list of the top things to consider if you’re thinking about giving birth at home.
- Discuss your options with your midwife
Between 8 weeks and 12 weeks of pregnancy you’ll be able to have a booking appointment to discuss your birthing options with your midwife. If you already know you would like to have a home birth, then your midwife will record this in your maternity notes and make the appropriate arrangements. If you decide later in your pregnancy that you’d like a home birth, tell your midwife during one of your antenatal appointments.
Your GP or midwife will go through any risks involved with a home birth. If you are deemed healthy and considered to have a straightforward or “low risk” pregnancy then you should have no issues choosing to birth at home. In some cases, for example if the baby is breech, or you are expecting twins, your midwife or doctor will explain why they think a hospital birth is safer.
- Consider your at home pain relief options
Women who labour and deliver at home report needing fewer drugs for pain relief. This is because women at home tend to be more relaxed, feel in control and are able to cope with the pain of their contractions.
Pethidine and epidurals are not available at home, so should you want stronger pain relief you will be transferred into hospital. But there are a number of non-drug methods of pain relief, such as TENS machines, relaxation and breathing, being active and changing position regularly, as well as water immersion, which are all available to you at home.
- Home water birth
A birthing pool is a quiet, private environment that can help women in labour feel safe and secure. Water immersion can be very effective for pain relief as it helps by increasing the body’s production of endorphins. It can also ease muscular tension and can help you to relax between contractions. Birthing in water can also be combined with other forms of pain relief including gas and air, massage and acupressure.
- Choose your birthing partner
Much like birthing in a hospital, it can be extremely comforting to have a close friend or family member by your side whilst giving birth at home. And, as you are giving birth in your own house, you can decide how many people are there with you.
During the start of labour, a midwife will visit to see how far along you are and how you are coping. If you are still in the early stages, she may leave you and return at a later point. Ideally there should be at least two midwives with you for the delivery. You can ask a doula to be there with you throughout the whole labour if that makes you more comfortable, but it is not necessary.
- Preparing necessary equipment
A few weeks before your due date, a midwife will bring a birth pack containing the pieces of equipment she’ll need for the delivery. You should also have a few other things of your own prepared well in advance of your due date in order to feel comfortable and ready. These should include:
- plastic sheets and liners to protect your furniture
- Old towels and sheets, plus bin liners to collect dirty linen
- Warm blankets in case you become cold
- Effective lighting so that the midwives can check on you and the baby
- A birthing pool if you are choosing to use one
- Clean, warm towels, baby blankets and clothes suitable for the baby