Home Birth Tips and Advice
Sixty years ago, home births were not 'the latest craze' in the world of parenting. Having your baby at home was just the way it worked, and nobody really batted an eyelid if Mrs Jones at number 42 needed hot towels at 3 o'clock in the morning. Fast forward a few decades and now home birth is not the norm, yet research published by the British Medical Journal found that home births are "less risky than planned hospital births" (BBC) for many women. So why the reluctance to do it in the comfort of your own home?
Parent blogger Donna, who writes at Redhead Babyled, told us that her reasons for choosing a home birth for her first baby came entirely from positive experiences her friends had with their own home births. "Years before Hubby and I were even in a position to have children, friends of ours had a home birth." she says. "Up until this point every birth I'd heard about was surrounded by talk of the unbearable pain, leaving your dignity at the door and basically what a horrendous but necessary experience the labour and birth had been. Our friends' home birth sounded calm, relaxing and a lovely way to bring a baby into the world. It was the first time I'd heard about birth in a positive way and from then I knew I wanted to give birth at home."
So what are the benefits of a home birth? There are so many reasons why a woman may choose the comfort of their own home over the hospital. If your pregnancy is low risk and you've previously had a positive hospital birth experience, you may feel that you are confident enough to do it all at home next time around. You may prefer the idea of one midwife that stays with you throughout the whole experience and you may genuinely not like hospitals! Whatever your reason, it still pays to research all of your options before you make a decision. Here are some top tips to help you:
- Have a read of the latest findings in the Birthplace Study. This is a fully comprehensible report into birth in the UK and it's aim is to "provide high quality evidence about processes, outcomes and costs associated with different settings for birth in the NHS in England." The document actually compares a home birth against a hospital birth, which can be helpful if you're undecided.
- Speak to your midwife and ask for a honest advice on your situation. It's ok wanting a similar experience as your friend, but each and every pregnancy is different and a professional opinion should be taken into account too. If your midwife is unable to advise or you're not happy with her advice, you can ask to speak to the local supervisor of midwives by contacting the maternity unit.
- Talk to your family and birthing partner. It's important they understand the reasons for your decision and that you have full support so that you are confident during the birthing process
- Speak to other women who've had a home birth. Donna says:
"Personally, I had a birth pool at home for both of my home births. I know that this isn't something that is always available in hospital births. I have no personal experience of a hospital birth apart from what I have heard from friends and what I have seen on TV and in the media. For my first home birth I had a midwife here from the point I found the pain unbareable and another midwife came out for the pushing stage. For my second homebirth I ended up with two midwives and a student midwife for the whole labour from the time I rang the hospital - Good job really as it was only 3 hours. In hospital midwives are stretched further and multiple labouring women share the same midwives. At home I know I had more dedicated care than I would have done in hospital.
At home you are surrounded by familiar things, the only unfamiliar thing is labour. In hospital everything is different and not always the most relaxing of surroundings. At home you're free to have a cup of tea, something to eat, listen to music, watch TV. You can do whatever you like during your labour - within reason. You can still do a lot of these things at hospital but you'd have to think about the in advance - remember to take music with you, take snacks with you in your hospital bag - You can't just make yourself that perfect hot chocolate or funny combination on toast, but you can at home if you want to - although eating and drinking will probably far from your thoughts.
Overall, for me, having my births at home was an incredibly natural experience. There was nothing 'clinical' about either labour or birth and they couldn't have gone better. I was incredibly lucky but I also put a lot of it down to how relaxed I was being at home."
If you've decided that a home birth is the right option for you, and all are agreed that there is no reason why you cannot labour and deliver your child at home, you need to think about preparations! Your midwife will let you know what you need to have for the big day and there is lots of information out there to read- remember that knowledge is power! Donna's three top tips for planning a home birth are:
- Be as fully informed as you can - Read up on homebirth, talk to other women who have had homebirths and join homebirth forums. It's not always a 'perfect' experience and often results in transfer to hospital. Read up as much as you can and talk to your midwife so that you're as prepared as possible.
- If planning a homebirth, consider not telling too many people during your pregnancy. We found that when we told people, who had no experience of homebirths, that they were negative and full of horror stories and what ifs. You're the one thinking of the homebirth, you're the one that has researched it and you're the one that knows the answers to the what ifs. Save yourself the worry and stress by only telling your nearest and dearest.
- Even though you're thinking of a homebirth, still pack a hospital bag 'just in case'. Even if the homebirth is succesful the hospital bag means everything you need straight after the birth is all in one place. If you have to transfer to hospital during or after the birth then you have everything ready to take with you and remember - If you have to transfer to hospital you haven't failed - You and your baby's safety is the most important thing!