Having a home birth

Midwife Anne Richley explains how to prepare for giving birth at home

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Around 2-3% of births in England are home births, although some regions of the country, such as Torbay and Brighton, have much higher levels (Torbaby is thought to be up to around 20%). This is because some health areas are better set up for home births, with more midwives who encourage and are well experienced in giving birth at home.

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Women often feel more relaxed in their own surroundings, which means labour often progresses normally and intervention is less likely.

What to expect: Pretty much what you plan! You can have whoever you like with you, and choose which room you’d like to give birth in. You’ll also have two midwives with you. The first midwife will come out to you when you go into labour and then a second midwife will arrive slightly later in time for the birth. Having two midwives on hand means that one midwife can look after you and the other one can look after your baby, if any problems arise.

How do I go about it? Talk to your midwife about having a home birth. The opportunity to give birth at home will depend on your local midwife resources and how your pregnancy is progressing. If your local health authority is set up for home births and there are no apparent problems with your pregnancy then there is a good chance you can plan for a home birth. However, when it comes to the actual day, you’ll need two midwives and so it will depend on availability of suitable midwives on the day.

Good to know… Many women choose to use a birthing pool when giving birth at home. You’ll be responsible for arranging it – you can hire one (prices start around £80), or buy a small basic one from £85. They’re set up at your home from around 37 weeks of pregnancy. Prices vary depending on the size and any extras with the pool.

Advantages of a home birth

  • Giving birth in a comfortable environment means you’re likely to feel more relaxed and in control
  • You’ll probably be able to build up a closer relationship with your midwife, especially during labour
  • You can have as many people present at the birth as you want

Disadvantages of a home birth

  • There’s no reassurance of high-tech assistance being close at hand, which some mums want
  • You can’t guarantee you’ll have a home birth – your labour needs to be progressing without complications and you need to have two midwives present
  • You won’t be able to have an epidural at home, although you’ll probably be able to have gas and air and pethidine, if your midwives feel it would be helpful
  • If you hire a birth pool, you guarantee you can use it, whereas there may not be one free or available in a hospital or birth centre
  • You’ll need to be transferred to a hospital if anything goes wrong during labour

“I made all the noise I wanted!”

“I opted for a home birth as I hoped it’d be more relaxing. I’d also read that home births have fewer complications than those in hospital, and I wanted as little medical intervention as possible. I hired a birthing pool with a heater, which was filled for three weeks before my due date (great for swollen summer legs!). It cost £300 for five weeks. I was able to just chill out and shout when I needed to, which I’d be too self-conscious to do in a hospital. My husband Andrew was there the whole time and the midwives were amazing.”

Madeleine Harris, 31, from London, mum to Bella, 4 months

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