Home Birth: Everything you need to know

Home Birth - everything you need to know

 - Home Birth: Everything you need to know
Although home birth cases make up a relatively small amount of births in the UK, the number of women having home births is on the rise.

Celebs like Davina McCall and Charlotte Church are huge fans of a traditional home birth but having your baby away from the hospital can seem a little daunting.

Plus, when you're pregnant, giving birth can seem like years away but it comes around quicker than expected which is why getting the information that you need about the options available to you is key.

Is it safe? What happens if something goes wrong? And is a home birth more painful? These are just some of the questions which can crop up.

So we asked Midwife Odette Abououf from advice service Greatvine to share her knowledge of home births.

Odette says: "Most people go to hospital when they are sick but for many of my clients pregnancy is a normal, natural life event and they want to keep it that way."

So to find out everything you know about home birth read on!

What is a home birth?
In a nut-shell a home birth is where the mother gives birth to her baby in the comfort of her own home with a birthing team to assist.

Having a home birth is supposed to be the most natural way of giving birth as there is no epidural involved. Odette says the motto of most home births is: "Start natural, stay natural".

But just because you are at home does not mean that there aren't the same options as a hospital birth. Many women who birth at home choose to have a water-birth in a birthing pool. Research shows that home births are twice as fast as hospital births!

Can anyone have a home birth?
Concerns about safety can put some women off giving birth at home.

But Odette says there is no need to be worried. "Things don’t usually go wrong in home births but we do advise that if someone is planning a home birth that they should be low risk.

This means that there’s nothing that has happened during the pregnancy that’s likely to cause a complication in the labour. This could include expecting twins or triplets, high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. Anything that could compromise the labour in any way."
Is it safe?
Odette says: "In a word, yes. For a low-risk woman giving birth at home can have huge benefits and is at least as safe as hospital births."

Midwives are highly trained in what to do if things go wrong in birth and if there is a complication at home they will always have resuscitation equipment there to combat the situation before having to transfer the mother to hospital.
Advantages of a home birth:
The main advantage of a home birth is having your baby in your own environment where you feel more comfortable.

As well as this Odette says: "I think privacy and having the people with you that you’ve chosen is a big advantage of having a home birth. It’s your territory, you’re not asking someone’s permission to go to the toilet etc and your midwife will move along with you at your own pace rather than the rush of the hospital.

It’s more relaxing, it’s going to go faster, and then you don't have to worry about the stress of recovering at hospital as you and your baby are already at home!"

If you do not have the support in your area then home birth cannot be possible. You can check whether support is available via BirthChoiceUK.

Plus a home birth is an option that is only available for low-risk women.

Where do you start? 
If you are thinking about the possibility of a home birth then Odette suggests that you talk to your midwife or GP as soon as possible.

Talk to your midwife early on about having a home birth, let her know as early as possible then there is enough time to plan.

Once you have decided that this is the right option for you, midwives will come out to your home and assess whether it is suitable for a home birth.

They’ll ask if you would prefer to have a water birth or a land birth and will make sure this is feasible and that your floor is strong enough to accommodate a birthing pool. They will then help you make the necessary arrangements.

During your home birth labour your midwife will be with you throughout.

What equipment do I need? 
Odette says: "Just like with a hospital birth, think about the things that you would want around you, little luxuries like candles and face spritz can make the whole experience much more pleasant."

Examples of the things you will need are:
  • Plenty of old towels
  • Old sheets
  • Shower curtains to protect the carpet
  • Pillows
  • Visualisation tools like photographs and pictures
  • Music
  • Beanbag
  • Candles
  • Birthing pool
  • TENS machine
  • Herbal remedies like rescue remedy

Birth Pool:

Birthing pools are a great way to give birth at home as not only are they a natural pain reliever but they also speed up pregnancy.

Odette says: "The birth pool is known as the natural epidural."

The solid pressure of the water causes a chemical reaction on the woman’s body which acts as a natural pain relief.

With a birth pool, labour happens so much faster and actually makes it less painful as well.

Your midwife can bring a birth pool with her, you can hire one from your local birth trust or you can buy your own. Birth pools range from £80-£120 and you can pick them up from websites like Home Birth Supplies.

Is there pain relief available during a home birth?
The whole purpose of a home birth is to keep things natural so the pain relief that's available at hospital, like the epidural, is not used.

Instead Odette explains that there are plenty of other effective methods to provide pain relief for the mother.
"A very effective method of pain relief is the TENS machine which is a small device that is placed on the mother's lower back in early labour. This stimulates the body's natural endorphins and scrambles some of the nerve systems from her uterus to her brain which provides some pain relief.

Gas and air are also used in home births to relax the woman. Contrary to belief it’s actually a hand-held device and is not attached to her face so whenever there is a point she's feeling tired or panicky, a few minutes on gas and air can really help."

For women who really want to keep things natural, things like essential oils, homeopathic remedies, arnica and rescue remedy can also help with pain relief during birth.

Who will be there? 

Community midwives usually perform home births. Sometimes with an NHS midwife you’ll have a home-birth team of from 4-6 people and if you’re lucky enough you’ll be able to meet all of these before your birth - the number of midwives differ between trusts.

Usually one midwife will come to your home when you start your labour to check how far along you are. Sometimes if you are too early they will leave again and come back with a team when you are further along in your labour.
What happens after the birth? 
In the hospital things are quite regimented and done quite quickly, at home it’s a much more laid back approach.

Odette says: "There is no mad rush to cut the cord which is much better for the baby, a third of the baby’s blood volume and stem cells are transferred through the chord and allowing it to drain fully can help with a number of things later in life.
The midwife will hang around for a couple of hours until the cord is cut and the placenta is delivered and after everything is checked and ok with mother and baby they will leave the family to celebrate the birth in private within a few hours.

Normally the woman is usually much more chilled out and things are much more private and relaxed."

If you want to find out more about other ways to give birth, check out our hypnobirth feature.


Parenting Editor
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