“Women planning birth at home or in a freestanding midwife-led unit were more likely to have a normal (vaginal) birth than women planning birth in an alongside midwife-led unit. Women planning birth in any of these 3 places were more likely to have a normal birth than women planning birth in an obstetric unit” NICE Guidelines 2014
Let me say straight off that I’m not suggesting everyone should have a home birth! You should always seek the advice of your healthcare professionals if you are thinking about choosing a home birth.
Also, as a doula, I regularly support people to give birth in many different settings of their choosing because above all else respecting their choice is paramount.
That said, I am a massive advocate of home birth (I’ve had one and it was incredible) and I’ve worked with plenty of first time parents who have had home births.
So these are my reasons why home birth is great for first time parents…..
Having a home birth, whether it’s your first or second or third and so on, will give you something that is so much harder to achieve in a hospital or midwife led setting – the comfort of a familiar environment.
This has a massive impact on how your labour will unfold. Feeling safe and secure in your environment will allow oxytocin to flow and help keep your labour on track. Ensuring the flow of oxytocin helps prevent labour from stalling.
Not having to travel!
So many parents I’ve worked with have been incredibly worried about how they will know when to transfer to their chosen place of birth. The standard response is when you’re surges are coming roughly 3 times in 10 minutes but this can be incredibly misleading if you’re someone who’s labour doesn’t follow this set pattern (and so many don’t).
So not needing to transfer means you can relax and let labour flow! You can call your midwifery team and let them know what’s happening and then they can decide when to come as long as you feel happy for them to do so.
You set the rules!
Because healthcare professionals are enter your environment rather than the other way round it changes the power dynamic. You don’t have to be the one asking permission to do things – “please can I get in the pool”, “please can I get off the bed” etc etc.
You feel more comfortable moving around your familiar space and are more likely to use all of your environment to help you through your labour – hiding in your downstairs loo, or kneeling in your bath….
More likely to have a physiological birth!
As stated in the quote above from the NICE Guidelines 2014 you’re statistically more likely to have a physiological birth (read – normal vaginal birth) without medical intervention if you are at home or in a midwife led unit.
Your midwifery team will bring what they need with them!
They will have at their disposal (and yours) all the things they would have available in a midwife led unit. Need gas and air – they bring it. Need a few stitches afterwards – not a problem. Baby needs weighing – sorted!
Cup of tea on your sofa!
There is literally nothing like curling up with your baby on the sofa after your amazing home birth and having a cup of tea! Or a shower in your own bathroom, or snuggling down in your own bed with your new baby.
Incredible way to set yourself up on your parenting journey!
Giving birth in any setting where you feel in control and respected and safe will set you up on your journey into parenthood feeling like you’re a birthing goddess. Doing it in your own home just magnifies this feeling.
Your babies microbiome!
A physiological birth will give your baby’s microbiome the best start possible, flooding it with all the important bacteria contained within the birth canal that will ensure it has a robust gut health.
The bacteria of your home environment is thought to benefit this process further by providing more familiar bacteria for your baby’s gut. All this helps ensure your baby’s future health – and who doesn’t want that? The research for this is still in its infancy but the arguments so far are pretty compelling.
At the end of the day birth isn’t generally a medical emergency but simply a normal bodily function that we manage very well with the right support.
According to the World Health Organisation, “85% of pregnant women are capable of giving birth safely with minimal intervention”.
If you feel like a home birth is right for you (and please remember it isn’t right for everyone) – what should you do about it?
First off … talk to your midwife as early as possible in your antenatal sessions. If they’re unsupportive – explore why – if you have a genuine medical issue then that is something to seriously consider. However, if they just seem not particularly supportive of the idea of a first time parent birthing at home ask to see a different midwife or speak to the Head of Midwifery for your Trust.
Secondly…be prepared! You need to sort your physical environment – space for a pool if you want one, source a pool and buy a liner (and make sure the hose fits on your taps), where do you want to give birth ideally – plan how you want that space to look.
Who do you want at your birth? Friends, family, partner, doula? And why? Create the birth team you want. Its your house so if you want to invite the neighbours – that’s your choice.
You need to know what you’re letting yourself in for. Read books – not just any old birth books but ones that talk you through how physiological birth works and why, books about hypnobirthing, dealing with the fear of birth or the fear of the unknown.
Seek out professionals who can help you – find a good antenatal class, a hypnobirthing instructor, a doula who will provide continuity of emotional and physical support. Make sure you have complete faith in your team.
Things to bear in mind…
Transfer rates for first time parents into hospital from a home setting can be as high as nearly 50% in the UK. The proportion of these transfers that are due to medical emergencies is relatively small – around 8%.
Transfers tend to take place in home births because of the desire for additional pain management. Pain management is a lengthy topic but there’s plenty of evidence that having continuity of support during your birth will reduce your need from pain management (so get a good team around you).
Risk – or chance!
There is always risk, or chance, for another way to phrase it, involved in giving birth. Only you, with the right information, can assess that risk. It really is up to you – no matter what your healthcare providers might say.
You can contact me here if you’d like to discuss optimising your chances of having a home birth or if you’d like to discuss having a doula to help create continuity through your pregnancy and birth support team.
Then you sit back and relax and wait for the beautiful birth of your first child.