Is giving birth at home a good idea? Despite home births being quite rare in the UK (only 2.6% of all deliveries took place at home in England in 2005-06), they are becoming a more and more popular choice, either for philosophical reasons, or simply because parents want a simpler experience of childbirth. There is no evidence to suggest that in a normal healthy pregnancy, it is no less safe to give birth at home than at hospital.
In the UK you should be given the informed choice where to birth your baby, and should you decide to give birth at home, the midwives should support you in this. However, if they do think that a homebirth is an unsafe choice for you, they should advise you of this but ultimately the decision is yours.
A home birth generally only takes place if there are no particular risks associated with the pregnancy, in other words if it’s a “physiological” pregnancy.
In certain cases, home birth will be advised against: if you are having a breech birth, twins, multiple births, you suffer from placenta praevia, diabetes or high blood pressure, for the safety of both you and your unborn baby.
If complications occur during pregnancy or near your due date, a home birth will not be possible.
How does it take place?
Naturally! You don't have an epidural at a home birth but non pharmacological methods of pain relief such as TENS, water, aromatherapy, hypnobirthing may be used. Your midwife can also provide you with entonox (gas and air) and in some areas Pethidine may be available. The midwife will, however, come along with emergency equipment for mother and child, as well as a monitoring device to check your baby’s heartbeat during the birth. Where possible, the midwife who has assisted you throughout your pregnancy will be the one present at the birth.
As with hospital births, no pregnancy or birth is without risks, however midwives are trained in dealing with emergency situations and if the need does arise, you will be transferred to the hospital for immediate treatment. There are risks, which is why many doctors are against home births. For example, a Caesarean might be necessary, or haemorrhaging might occur.
Being prepared to go to hospital during labour
You need to bear in mind that it might be necessary at some point to be transferred to hospital. If this is the case, the midwife will explain why she thinks it’s for the best and will call an ambulance to take you to hospital. The most common reasons why a woman may need to be transferred into hospital are for further pain relief or if there is slow progress in labour.
The delivery takes place in familiar surroundings, which is psychologically reassuring for the mother. The father is fully involved in the arrival of his child. You’ll experience the natural side of childbirth, away from the medical/clinical features of a hospital.
Women who labour and birth at home have lower incidences of intervention, induction, instrumental deliveries, Caesarean sections, episiotomies, and they are less likely to suffer from post partum haemorrhages or birth trauma. Babies born at home tend to have higher Apgar scores at birth and are born in better condition.
Discuss with your NHS midwife the provision for homebirths in your area. If you are lucky, your regular community midwife may attend your birth, however if she is unavailable it may be a different midwife that comes out to you, whoever is on-call at the time. To ensure continuity of care through your pregnancy, labour and birth, another option is to pay for an independent midwife. Charges range from £1,500 to £4,000.
For more information on independent midwives, visit www.independentmidwives.org.uk