Giving Birth at Home

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home birthSince March 2006, midwives are supposed not only to help the mother-to-be make her decision about the type of birth she wants, but to support her all the way if they opt for giving birth at home. Home birth can be a wonderful, immensely rewarding experience that some mums have always dreamed about. Thankfully, with today's support and facilities giving birth at home is a very real alternative.

Why Give Birth at Home?

Most women opt for birth at home due to the benefits of the familiarity of their environment, the comfort of their home and the support of their family. Some of us can't put up with the impersonal treatment of hospitals and some of us frankly don't like to be told what to do in such intimate circumstances.


"I wanted my experience to be as natural as possible. I didn't want any drugs to speed up my labour and I didn't want my baby to get distressed because of them. I knew I could do it, I just felt it!", says Paula, a mother of two home born babies.

"I dreaded the bugs in hospital. It's true what they say about nesting: I was polishing the kitchen table when my contractions were two minutes apart the third time. I couldn't bear thinking of leaving my home for hospital where my newborn could get a bug or an infection", says Rachel, mother of three.

"I had the most awful experience in hospital with my first baby. I would never, ever go back to hospital to give birth. It was crazy!', adds Ruth.

Arrangements for Home Birth

To arrange a home birth, you need to first book it with your Community Midwifery department or hire a registered independent midwife to assist you. Before you do that, she should be able to provide you with her qualifications and discuss insurance agreements with you. This booking is based on your due date. If you find out that it is not possible to book an NHS midwife for that period and cannot afford an independent midwife, ask advice from organisations able to assist you in your efforts. ( and could offer real advice and support).

Why Not Give Birth at Home?

You need to give birth in a hospital, if: You or your family have a history of heart disease, high or very low blood pressure, diabetes, anaemia, kidney disease, any genital infection, if you smoke, if the baby is expected to be born with a certain condition, if you give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks), postmaturely (over 42 weeks), if it is a multiple pregnancy, in the case of placenta praevia (placenta lies in front of the baby) or breech position.

What Can Go Wrong?

You need to talk to your antenatal midwife about this choice and she will advise you if giving birth at home is suitable for you or not. If you had a complicated birth before or if you needed a caesarean section, it's highly unlikely that a homebirth is suitable for you. On the opposite, if you had one or more easy births before, this increases your chances of getting your choice approved.

However, there are a few things you should consider before making your choice. One of them is that you might want more pain relief during birth. Your midwife can offer you Entonox (gas and air) and a Pethidine injection if she appreciates there are no risks involved, but she cannot administrate an epidural. If you could cope on your own with the level of pain you experienced during previous births, it's likely that this time it will be the same. If you want to have an epidural, you have to be transferred to hospital. You might need ventouse or forceps assistance; in this case, you will have to be transferred to the hospital as well. If you labour doesn't progress or progresses very slowly, again, you will need to be transferred to the hospital.

If your baby's cord is around his neck, the midwife could probably resolve this problem and deliver the baby with no complications. However, in every case, it's she who decides if you need to be transferred to hospital or not.

What Should You Need for a Home Birth?

  • At least two big towels kept warm to clean the baby and swaddle her in it.
  • A lamp for estimating the baby's colour if she doesn't start crying or breathing.
  • A waterproof sheet
  • Old sheets and old linen
  • Cotton wool
  • Tissues
  • Bin liners
  • A sterile bowl (you can boil it previously)

Your Midwife will Bring:

This is a guidance list and it does not imply that your midwife will bring this exact amount of things. It would be wise to check with her when arranging the birth, perhaps using this list as a guide.

  • Ambubag and oxygen container for inflating the baby's lungs if needed.
  • Goedel airways for opening baby's mouth to assist with breathing.
  • At least 2 cylinders or Entonox and mouthmask piece.
  • At least 1 bag of oxygen for the baby and one for the mother.
  • Resuscitation equipment for the baby.
  • Inco pads (large absorbent pads).
  • Pethidine.
  • Syringes, blood containers etc.
  • A stethoscope.
  • A sphygnomanometer (for reading the blood pressure).
  • Baby scales.
  • Cord scissors, cord ligatures.
  • Episitiomy scissors.
  • Local anesthetics.
  • Vitamin K for the baby.

If you are interested in a comparison between the pros and cons of a home birth and a hospital birth, check out our article on giving birth in hospital for more ideas on how to make your hospital birth experience as personal as a home birth.