There are many benefits to birthing at home, but it is still often seen as a controversial choice.
Despite many believing it’s the more risky choice, birthing at home completely supports the physiology of birth. Those that choose to birth at home have a much higher chance of achieving a natural, physiological birth with much less chance of medical intervention. According to a systematic review and meta-analyses by The Lancet (2018) the outcomes for babies being birthed at home (by those who intended to birth at home) showed no difference to those birthed in a hospital setting and for the mother, the outcomes were improved in a home birth setting.
It is apparent that intervention in birth leads to more intervention, and you could say that the transfer from your home into the hospital is the first intervention for most birthing people. To leave your home, a place where you are familiar, safe and unobserved, to enter into a bright, sterile hospital surrounded by strangers is disturbing the process, no matter how smooth the transition goes.
BENEFITS OF A HOME BIRTH
You have the undivided attention of your community/independent midwife as unlike in a birth centre or labour ward, you are the only birthing person around.
Partners can become more involved; being at home gives you the opportunity to be more intimate (which supports the physiology of birth) as your home enables you to have more privacy.
Should you choose to, you are free to have siblings assist your birth.
You have the freedom to move about your home, exploring different rooms, finding comfort on the bed, in the bath, in a pool, etc. Being in your own home means you have the freedom to alter the birthing space, creating the perfect environment to support a physiological birth.
You are at much less risk of infection as your body has already built up a tolerance to the bacteria in your home, creating antibodies to protect you and your baby.
You’re free to eat and drink whatever and whenever you choose during and immediately after labour.
You have choice who you welcome into your birthing space. In the hospital, people (health professionals, hospital staff) are free to come in and out without warning, interrupting the natural flow of labour.
It is much less stressful than the logistics of travelling to hospital, worrying about traffic, sorting parking, finding the labour ward, waiting around in Triage, being told you “aren’t far enough along” only to be sent home to do it all over again in a couple of hours. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone that goes to hospital to birth their baby, but it is very common.
PLANNING YOUR HOME BIRTH
PREPARING THE PERFECT SPACE
There are a few simple things you can do to support and protect your hormones during labour, to ensure your labour progresses as it should.
Oxytocin (the love hormone) is what makes your uterus contract. When oxytocin is released in abundance, you will experience longer, stronger and more effective surges. It is important to protect the environment in which you are birthing because oxytocin is a shy hormone. If at any point you do not feel safe, protected, undisturbed or unobserved, your oxytocin production can be effected and in-turn, your body will produce heightened levels of adrenaline, causing labour to stall. This is our bodies way of protecting us from harm whilst birthing our babies.
Things to consider when preparing your birthing space:
- Lighting – Low lighting encourages privacy, encouraging you to feel safe and unobserved.
- Temperature – Warmth supports the production of oxytocin.
- Smell – Scented candles/essential oils in a diffuser can enhance a feeling of calm.
- Music – What sounds help you to relax?
- Water – Being immersed in water can calm us. Perhaps the use of a pool or bath.
- Who are you welcoming into your space? Do they bring the right energy?
RELIEF & RELAXATION
Below I have created a list of comfort measures to support you during your home birth. These are not all essential but will help you to cope with the process of labour:
- Hot water bottle for early labour
- TENS machine
- Positive Affirmations to stick around your birthing space
- Create a playlist that will help you feel calm and focused
- Candles or fairy lights
- Food & drinks prepared ready when you need
- Birth ball to keep active and help labour progress
- Essential oils to use in a diffuser, in the bath or in a massage oil
- Other complementary therapies; herbal/homeopathic remedies
- Flannel or ice pack
- Birth pool and accessories
- Lip balm
PRACTICAL THINGS FOR YOUR HOME BIRTH
Once again, these aren’t essentials just practical tools to assist your labour.
- Plastic sheeting to protect floors, sofa and beds
- Soft coverings such as old sheets or towels
- Extra old towels
- Bin bags for rubbish and washing
- Flannels and hair ties
- Container (bowl or bucket) in case you are sick
- A straw for your drink
- Food/drinks for partner/midwives/doula
- Maternity notes and birth plan to hand to midwife upon arrival
- Packed Birth Bag – in case you need to transfer
Consider things that you may need as soon as baby arrives.
- Blanket for you and baby
- Post-birth food and drink to restore energy levels
- A change of clothes ready to put on after a bath/shower
- Clothing for baby
- Cotton wool
- Maternity pads
- Large comfortable underwear
In the UK home birth is an option for all, including those with more complex pregnancies. It is important that you choose to birth where you feel safe and you can make that choice by researching and informing yourself, basing your decision on facts.
Are you planning a home birth? If there is anything else you’d like to know, if so please feel free to leave me a comment below.