Midwife’s guide to home births

Thinking about having a home birth but not sure if it's right for you? Midwife Anne Richley talks you through the home experience, from plastic sheets to drugs!

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Why give birth at home?

The biggest advantage is that you’re in a familiar, comfortable environment. It’s the uncertainty and fear, which women often feel when they arrive in hospital, that can inhibit labour.

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You’ll have the freedom to wander around, and you can choose who’s there with you.Home births also carry a lower risk of getting an infection. Even if you’re transferred to hospital during labour, you’re still less likely to end up with a caesarean than someone who is booked in for a hospital birth.

What are the options for pain relief? 

By choosing to have a home birth you’ll be relaxed in your surroundings, which makes a huge difference to your ability to cope with the contractions. Because of this, and the one-to-one care you get from the midwife, many women find they don’t need pain relief.

To help with the pain, you can hire a TENS machine (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), or have a soothing soak in a warm bath. If you need that extra something, it’s also possible to use gas and air at home. The midwife will bring canisters with her and you breathe the gas (Entonox) through a mouthpiece or face-mask.

Some doctors will prescribe Meptid or Pethidine for the midwife to administer, although many midwives prefer not to use these as they can make the baby drowsy. The reality is that most women birthing at home use what’s around them – they walk, listen to music, eat and drink, and generally stay calm, which is the secret of staying in control of your labour.

What if I can’t cope?

You can always transfer to hospital. At least you’ll have spent some of your labour in a familiar environment with one-to-one care, which may in itself have helped labour to progress further than it would have done if you’d rushed straight to hospital. If you’ve got your heart set on having an epidural, you’ll need to go to the hospital, but if you’re relaxed, you might not need the painkiller after all!

Do I need to prepare my house?

A piece of plastic sheeting can be useful to protect the carpet, but a few old towels will do… and a bottle of something chilled and fizzy to celebrate afterwards!

Still unsure?

Wait until you’re in labour to decide what you want to do. Tell your midwife you’re planning on a home birth and see how you feel on the day. When the midwife arrives, let her check you over. If you’re relaxed, then there’s no rush to go anywhere.

But if you suddenly feel you need to be in hospital, then that’s also fine – the important thing is to feel in control. If you would be reassured by a hospital environment, then home birth is not for you.

Anne says:

“Your midwife should always discuss with you where you would prefer to have your baby – at home or at the hospital. All the evidence (and there’s plenty of it!) shows that in a straightforward pregnancy, it’s as safe to opt for 
a home birth as a hospital one.

“Last week I asked a woman in the clinic if she had thought about having a home birth, and she told me that because she’d had a forceps delivery last time, she didn’t think it was ‘allowed’. I told her the word ‘allowed’ isn’t in 
my vocabulary – and it shouldn’t be in hers either. Although some mums-to-be who are considered ‘high risk’ may be advised to have their baby in hospital, the majority of women should be encouraged to consider a home birth.”

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