Homebirth can be brilliant option for some parents – calm, undisturbed, familiar and relaxed with a midwife coming to you. It’s about dedicated one-to-one care throughout labour and birth which reduces complications and the need for interventions.
The latest research also finds that planned homebirth for women & babies who are healthy and considered low risk is as safe as being in hospital.
Even if you aren’t considered low risk, you can still opt for a homebirth – it depends what the issues are and, therefore, what the risks are.
Talk to your community midwife about it, do some reading and ask some questions to gather more knowledge so you can work out if it is the right choice for you. And there’s no rush to make a decision, you can decide to birth at home well into your third trimester.
Going into hospital:
About 45% of first time mums transfer into hospital during labour (but 55% do not!) while only 12% of second time mums transfer into hospital.
The main reasons for transfer are not emergencies they are due to long labours, a need for more pain relief and rest, an indication that a baby is not coping as well as he should be, or to repair a complicated tear.
As part of your preparation for a homebirth it can be useful to talk to your midwife about what a transfer into hospital involves and what happens if there is an emergency.
Feeling safe is a crucial part of labour for many women – so you need to feel safe at home and your labour needs to be progressing, even if it feels like a plod. If the thought of having a homebirth makes you feel scared, maybe it isn’t right for you. You can also change your mind during labour and go into hospital if you feel like that is the better option for you.
Some areas of the UK have higher homebirth rates than others but the overall statistics look like this:
England: 2.3% (1 in every 40 births)
Scotland: 1% (1 in every 100 births)
Wales: 3% (1 in every 30 births)
Northern Ireland: 0.3% (1 in every 300 births)
Your midwife will be part of the community team who provides your care during pregnancy – so she may be familiar to you when labour starts, or you might not have met her before. Some parents want more control over their birth than this and will hire an independent midwife who they will get to know during their pregnancy. Another option is to hire a doula, who can provide ongoing support throughout labour and birth.
Tips for preparing for a homebirth…
Be informed – talk to your midwife: write down questions to ask, ask how comfortable she is about attending a homebirth and talk to her about what reasons she would have to transfer and what happens in an emergency.
Ask to meet the other midwives in the team
Read well so you feel better prepared for labour and birth
Book some time with me – an antenatal course or 1:1 sessions – so you know more about working with your contractions, managing your energy and how to use your breathing
Think about your pain management: TENS machines can be brilliant, as can using a birthing pool – but both need to be hired in advance
Plan the right birthing environment for you – warm, comfortable, cosy, with adjustable lighting, private space and look at what you can use to enable you to move, lean and be as comfortable as possible.
Be honest about any fears or worries you may have – you need to address these, otherwise you might not be able to relax in labour.
Janine Smith – a specialist in pregnancy, birth and early parenting