Giving birth to H-Bear in a pool at home was one of the most empowering moments of my life. And there has never been a doubt in my mind that, if we were lucky enough to conceive and grow a baby to term again, I would want to have another home birth.
Whenever I talk about H-Bear’s home birth, I receive one of three reactions. It’s either:
- “Wow! You’re so brave! I don’t think I could ever have a home birth/I don’t think my partner would ever agree to it!”
- “Oh… right… Was it safe?” (Usually accompanied by a look that says “You don’t strike me as one of those ‘hippy’ mums…”)
- “Yes! Home birth is the best isn’t it?!”
I was chatting to my neighbour about home birth a couple of weeks ago, and she was telling me all about her home births in the 50s-60s. It was fascinating! She couldn’t believe how having a home birth is considered a ‘treat’ or a ‘privilege’ now. When she had her children, it was unusual not to have a home birth if you’d had a ‘normal’ first labour; women were actively encouraged to do so.
I discussed home birth on my Instagram Stories the other day and was inundated with questions about why I was choosing to birth Bun at home, so I thought this would be a good place to share.
Why are you choosing a home birth?
I’m choosing to have another home birth for a number of reasons:
- H-Bear’s birth was incredible. It was relaxed, intervention-free and I felt totally in control during every aspect (other than during transition, which is quite normal!). I think it would be quite strange if I didn’t want to try and have a similar experience this time round!
- Hospital births are very medicalised. Busby’s birth was in a hospital, and I found that there was a fair amount of unnecessary intervention, and too many changes of staff for them to ‘know’ me as a patient/person.
- Also, timelines are strictly kept to in hospital (which in turn leads to interventions again…), whereas home birth timelines are much more relaxed. H-Bear’s placenta took just over an hour to arrive. The midwives at his home birth told me that if I’d been in hospital that they’d be prepping me for theatre by now. At home, the midwife gave my tummy a massage and the placenta came in its own time.
- Not only are hospital births more medicalised, the environment in which you’re birthing isn’t natural. We need a safe, dark, comfortable space to give birth in, rather than the bright, sterile hospital environment. The midwives stood in the kitchen with a cup of tea during H-Bear’s labour, just watching me get on with it. I floated in the pool when I needed to and we kept the curtains closed. Everything smelt of home and safety.
- Continuity of care/staff. I briefly touched on this above… I saw 6 different midwives during Busby’s 6 hour labour in hospital. I saw 2 midwives during H-Bear’s labour; one of which was the lovely community midwife I’d seen throughout my appointments. The continuity of staff is so important during labour – if anything just for communication reasons.
- Your home is your own turf, so during a home birth you retain a certain level of ‘power’ or ‘control’ that is lost in hospital.
- There’s nothing like having tea and cake on the sofa afterwards while you fill in paperwork. It’s magical.
But, is it safe?
Yes. If you have a low risk pregnancy then a home birth is perfectly safe. In fact, research has shown recently that even if you’ve had a medium-to-high risk pregnancy, it’s just as safe for you to give birth at home than it is in hospital.
What if something goes wrong?
If something goes wrong then there’s a phone on the labour ward that staff have to answer. The phone gives the midwives a direct line to the ambulance team and they will get you to hospital quicker than if you called 999 yourself.
The midwives also have resuscitation kits with them which are set up on a surface in your home; ready to go if required.
If something went wrong in hospital and you needed to go to theatre, then it would still take time to prep you, staff and the theatre. We live 15-25 minutes away from the hospital and any prepping for theatre can be done in the ambulance en-route.
It’s worth noting also that, if something is going to go wrong, it will go wrong no matter where you’re giving birth.
Does your partner agree?
Yes. Nick is 100% on board with home birth. In fact, he’s a huge advocate! I’m trying to get him to write a post on ‘why home birth’ from a male perspective.
What do the NHS supply/what do I need to buy?
Having a home birth is a more expensive option than a hospital birth, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. The NHS doesn’t supply very much, but to be honest who wants to wrap themselves up in scratchy towels that have been mass laundered 100+ times anyway? Below is what you’ll need for your home birth.
Home birth essentials to buy:
- Plastic/waterproof coverings for furniture. Cheap shower curtains (hello Poundland) or plastic dust sheets do the job perfectly. Even if you’re planning a water birth, it’s useful to have these to hand in case you want to move around, or have to get out of the water and use the sofa or bed.
- Clean towels. We had a huge stack of towels on hand, but I think we only used 2-3 in the end… and only threw away one that was just too bloody to save.
- A jug to pee in after you give birth as the midwives need to make sure everything is working adequately. We used our Pyrex one last time and gave it a few rounds in the dishwasher afterwards!
Home birth luxuries to buy/rent:
- A birthing pool. We’re renting our birthing pool again from LaLuna Wellbeing in Hull. Packages start from £65 (to be transparent – we’ve paid for this ourselves).
Other than the above, having a home birth is like a hospital birth in terms of what you need.
Other things you’ll need:
- Something to wear during labour if you don’t wish to be naked (I wore a bikini top for H’s labour and plan to wear a maternity bra for Bun’s).
- Maternity pads. I find the big chunky Boots ones to be the best.
- HUGE knickers. Buy a pack of black cotton knickers from M&S/Tesco in a few sizes too big. These are much more comfy than the paper ones, and will fit your maternity pads post-birth. They also make wonderful period pants!
- A dressing gown and/or button up shirt.
- Newborn nappies.
- A blanket and/or clothes for baby.
- A room with adequate heating provisions.
Can I use pain relief at a home birth?
Yes. The midwives bring entonox (gas & air) with them, but anything else has to be prescribed prior to the birth. To be honest, you probably won’t need any pain relief if you’re birthing at home and are feeling relaxed!
Warm water is a wonderful natural form of pain relief – standing in the shower with the jet aimed at your lower back is heaven, as is using a birthing pool. You can also use a TENS machine at home. Hypnobirthing is also an amazing form of pain relief. I’ve written about hypnobirthing in more detail here.
When do the midwives arrive?
It completely depends on the speed of your past labours, community midwife availability and your local hospital’s guidelines. However, the labour ward and community team always like to know once you start having regular contractions so they can pop you up on the board, then a community midwife is sent out for triage and to see how you’re progressing.
In my area it seems that, during the day, if the midwife thinks you still have a while to go, they’ll leave and continue on their rounds – asking you to call them when things started to get going more.
H-Bear was born during the day, so we had a midwife within about 30 minutes of calling. However, at that point she didn’t think I was in established labour so went away… only to be called back an hour later! She immediately called for a second midwife, who arrived about 10 minutes before I gave birth to H-Bear.
My labours have both been quick, so this time round, Nick has been briefed on what to do if the baby is coming but the midwives can’t reach us in time.
Isn’t it really messy?
No – that’s what the towels and plastic sheeting are for! If you’re using a birth pool then you’ll have to empty that yourself (or rather, your birthing partner can do that while you have baby cuddles), but they usually come with an ‘out pipe’ for the water which just goes down the outside drain… or onto your plants! Most hire companies do the sterilising and proper cleaning of the pool for you once they’ve picked it up.
Will the children be present? Are you having any other birthing partners?
We’re hoping that Busby will be around at the end to witness her sister being born, and to help cut the cord. But it depends on what time of day she’s born. Otherwise it will just be Nick and I (and the midwives).
The wonderful thing about a home birth is that you’re not limited to how many people can be present like you are in hospital, so if you wanted to have a doula plus your entire extended family and neighbours then you can. Although that might not be the most relaxing experience in the world…!
Can I change my mind?
Yes – of course! It’s important to remember that this is your body, your baby, your birth, and if at any point you feel like hospital would be a more appropriate place for you, you are always able to change your mind! Unless the baby’s head is crowning… in which case, it’s probably best to stay put because you’re almost there!
I hope this answers some of your questions! If you have any more questions, please comment below, email me or DM me.