Has your midwife asked you where you’d like to have your baby? You may be offered a particular hospital, but you can request a different one if you wish to. If this is of interest you can talk to your midwife or self-refer online.
Did your midwife suggest a home birth to you? I generally find this does not get asked or talked about, particularly for a first time mother. Which is of course fine if this is not of interest to the mother, but it’s good to know all of your options so we’ll take a look at home birth here, and in another blog post we’ll look at birth centres and the labour ward.
When should I start thinking about a potential home birth?
Even if it’s just a tiny part of you is thinking ‘hmmm, maybe I’m interested in a home birth, I’m not sure though…’ then arrange to meet with the home birth midwives. The benefits of doing this sooner rather than later is a) it’s just one less thing to organise and b) you get to build up a relationship with the team of midwives, one or two of which will take care of you when you go into labour. Sometimes the midwives carry out appointments from your home too, which is lovely and relaxed for all.
You can always change your mind at any time – so you can book your home birth today and cancel it next week. You can also change your mind during your labour too and get transferred in to the hospital for whatever reason. Midwives are highly skilled and trained healthcare professionals who would not hesitate to transfer you in if they suspected there was any issue with mother or baby. They are skilled at dealing with emergency situations there and then, and in the unlikely event of an emergency a woman would transfer to hospital in an ambulance with the midwife calling ahead to have staff waiting to receive her.
But actually, home birth is very safe for a healthy woman who has not had any complications during her pregnancy and by planning a home birth you are actively reducing the chances of having a problem. For example:
You will not have your labour augmented (sped up) with drugs which can sometimes cause various complications for mother and baby and increased the need for an epidural due to the intensity it brings to the labour surges (contractions).
You are less likely to have interventions such as an episiotomy or an IV drip. You are also less likely to have a forceps or a caesarean birth – even if you do transfer to a consultant unit during labour.
The rate of postpartum infection in women who give birth in hospital is about 25%, compared to about 4% in homebirth mothers due to unfamiliar germs (see the National Birthday Trust Fund Study).
There’s a ton of evidence and research that shows the benefits of staying at home and how a woman progresses in labour. At home, she has access to all the different food and drinks she would like, it’s her domain and therefore she is naturally more relaxed, birth isn’t interrupted by leaving home to travel to hospital with its bright lights and noise (which will slow her labour down).
A woman is more likely to be active and mobile, working with gravity and not flat on her back when relaxed in her own environment. She can wander where she wants without having to ask for permission!
How about reframing home birth and saying to yourself “I’m going to labour and home and just see how I go. I know I can change my mind at any time”
The Birthplace study 2011 from the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU), found that women planning to have their baby at home were more likely than women planning for birth in other settings to have a straightforward birth: 88% of planned home births are ‘normal births’ compared to just under 60% of planned obstetric unit births.
The main focus of the study is outcomes for women who are ‘low risk’, i.e. those who are healthy, with a straightforward pregnancy, no previous obstetric complications that might affect this pregnancy. The study finds that there are positive reasons for considering planning to use a birth centre or to have a baby at home.
Since then, there has been an update:
A partner’s perspective:
Homebirth.co.uk says “Quite often If I had to generalise, I’d say that many fathers are sceptical about homebirth before the event, but become evangelical afterwards when they see how much sense it all makes; birth at home just works better, and once you have seen a woman labouring well, undisturbed, you can understand how disruptive it is to a woman’s labour if she has to travel to hospital. “
What if the partner is worried about home birth?
There are a few things you can do, or do together with your partner such as:
- Attend a home birth meet up (there are several local ones – Croydon & Beckenham). Here you will get to chat to the home birth midwives and other parents who had a home birth
- Arrange to meet the home birth midwives who would be taking care of you to get your questions answered.
- Read up on the subject. Learn about the ‘what if’s’ and how likely they are for your partner and what would happen in that situation.
“When Katie originally said she fancied a home birth I was very sceptical about the whole thing, I had all the normal scary visions and thoughts. I was present when Katie had her first appointment with her midwife, and she told her about wanting the home birth.
I must say that after that meeting, most, (not all) of my fears went. The midwife explained exactly what would happen and when and that we could still get to hospital very quickly if needs be. “
Finally, here is a hypnobirthing client’s perspective on her home birth (Emily has since gone on to have home birth number 2!)
I am sitting with my beautiful little 4 week old baby daughter sleeping beside me and thought I would take this opportunity to write to you to say a huge thank you. We had such a wonderful birthing experience and couldn’t have done it without the tools you provided us with during our Hypnobirthing course. I gave birth in the water, at home and with no pain relief. The birth we had both wished for!
My first surge was a 6.30pm and actually took place while listening to a hypnobirthing track! My husband came home from work an hour or so later, at which point I was having a surge every 20 minutes or so. He set up a mattress in the living room with candles and calm music. He talked me through every surge, encouraging me to breathe and relax as we had practiced. I used a tens machine which really helped. He called he midwife at about 2am when the surges were longer and more frequent, and by the time she arrived I was 7cm dilated. The pool was now ready in our dining room (it took a long time to fill!) and my husband had used our fairy lights and music to create the same calm atmosphere. I was anxious about removing the tens machine but the warm water felt wonderful.
Again, my husband was a huge support, physically and emotionally. Although I found it challenging to relax as I had done when we’d practiced, I was certainly more relaxed than I would have been without our hypnobirthing mindsets. The music really helped as I associated this with the relaxation sessions I had been doing for the past few weeks.
For the next few hours my waters were being a bit stubborn and I decided to have them broken, after which things moved fairly quickly.
Our little girl was born at 9am and it was by far the best moment of our lives. I held her for 20 minutes in the water before my husband cut the cord and had some skin to skin time with her himself. The midwife stayed with us until lunch time to make sure we were happy with feeding and left us snuggled up as a family to get to know our little baby girl. Four weeks later she still hasn’t been to a hospital!
I would recommend hypnobirthing and if possible home birth so highly. You played such a significant part in our journey to our dream birth. THANK YOU!” – Emily”
For more information on hypnobirthing or any questions drop me an email email@example.com