For some women, this is the only place to be – to labour and birth in their own environment, to feel relaxed and calm and to enable labour to flow.
Who can have a homebirth?
According to the Department of Health, women who are healthy, with healthy pregnancies and healthy babies are the ideal candidates for a homebirth because they are classed at low-risk of complications. However, even if you don’t match the ‘ideal’ criteria, you can still choose a homebirth but you may need to weigh up the potential risks by talking your situation through with your midwife and consultant.
If you would like to book a homebirth, just tell your community midwife during one of your antenatal appointments and she will make the arrangements. If you are considered high-risk, your midwife will refer you to a consultant to talk over your options.
What happens during a homebirth?
Your midwife will come out to you when you call to say you are in labour. If you are not in established labour, your midwife will leave you to progress in peace, and will come back when you need more support. This can be ideal because it saves you a journey to the hospital and you can continue to stay relaxed, which can encourage labour to flow.
For most of your labour, you will have one midwife with you and she will call another midwife for extra support when the birth of your baby is close.
What if I change my mind?
You can change your mind at anytime, in pregnancy or in labour. If a homebirth no longer seems the right option for you, you can go to hospital instead.
What if I need to go to hospital?
Your midwife will be monitoring you and your baby for any signs of labour moving away from ‘normal’. If she is unsure about how your labour is developing or about how your baby is handling the contractions, she may suggest a transfer to the hospital.
Thankfully, true emergencies in childbirth are rare and transfers into hospital are mainly due to a need for more pain relief or because labour is progressing slowly. Your midwife will arrange for an ambulance to take you to hospital.
The gas & air (entonox) cylinders will be delivered to your house and your midwife will bring along the equipment needed to use it. You can use gas & air throughout your labour.
You can also hire a birthing pool to use as additional pain relief. (www.washables.co.uk)
A TENS machine can also be hired to use in labour.
Is it safe?
According to a large Dutch study in 2009, a pregnant woman who is classified as being low-risk, giving birth at home is as safe as doing so in hospital with a midwife.
How many women have a homebirth?
According to the Royal College of Midwives, more women want to book a homebirth than actually have homebirths. It could be a combination of fear, lack of support and medical issues that prevents more women from booking a homebirth.
Birthchoice UK states that:
- in Wales about four in every 100 births are at home
- in England about three in every 100 births are at home
- in Scotland, about one in every 100 births is at home
- in Northern Ireland, fewer than one in 200 births is at home
How do I prepare my home?
You really don’t need to do very much at all…
- some parents like to use some plastic sheeting to protect their floor and furniture, others will just use some old newspaper and sheets
- if you want a birth pool, you can hire one and have it ready to use when you are in labour
- have a dressing down or blanket handy, in case you feel cold
- A couple of buckets or plastic containers can be useful, in case you need to be sick
- A desk light, so your midwife can check for any tears after your baby is born
- Bin bags to quickly clear away rubbish and dirty linen after you have had your baby
- Baby clothes and a blanket, which can be kept warm on a radiator
- Food and drink – for you, your birth partner and for your midwives to snack on
- Candles to create a relaxing environment to birth in
For more information:
For TENS machine and birth pool hire:
Comments from parents
- My main desire for HB was to be in my own bed snuggling with my daughter and hubs as soon as possible and not having hub sent away and leaving us alone. I ended up needing a hospital tranfer but everything was fine and went very smoothly and I was home very quickly afterward I would definately do it again though
- I always wanted a home birth. My Mum had me and my brothers at home, so it felt normal. I hate the bright lights and the high beds and hard floors in the hospital, convienient to clean, but not great for labouring on all 4’s! The Newcastle mid wives were brilliant, I had 2 at both labours and it was a fantastic and positive experience.
- I planned a HB for both 🙂
#1 I transferred in after a very long 2nd stage. I was out again within two hours and we cam home and went to bed together – a family of three :-))
#2 was at home in water – only 20 minutes after the MW arrived. Pretty perfect actually :-)) For me, home is the default place to give birth. I’m confident in my body to birth and MWs to support that. If I/baby needed extra help, I trust the MWs to recognise that in plenty of time.
- I had the most amazing home water birth. Relaxed, beautiful. A memory I will always treasure.
- I had two straightforward and uneventful home water births. I would encourage women to make an educated decision but basically give birth wherever they feel comfortable. I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t convinced of the experience of the midwives and the fact that the hospital was very very close!