Home or Hospital: Where Should Your Baby be Born?
The idea of giving birth at home is one that many women consider. It seems to be the most natural thing in the world and yet it has become relatively uncommon in this country over the past few decades. Holistic healthcare such as that practiced by the New Medicine Group focuses on the individual rather than the condition and your particular circumstances may mean that the advantages of a home birth far outweigh the disadvantages. If you feel a home birth is for you, here is a brief guide on how to organise it. We also look at some of the situations that mean it may not be the best option for you.
Is a home birth suitable for everyone?
If you are generally healthy and your pregnancy is progressing well a home birth should be suitable for you. If you have experienced complications in a previous pregnancy or you have certain medical conditions you may be advised not to opt for a home birth. The important thing is for you and your partner to discuss the issue with the medical professionals involved so that they can help you carefully consider the risks before you reach your decision. You can change your mind about having a home birth at any time, even when you have started in labour.
How to organise a home birth
If you have decided you want a home birth tell your midwife or GP when you attend your next antenatal appointment. They will record this in your notes and nearer the time your midwife will explain the preparations you will need to make and how home births are covered by the midwives in your area. Some mothers book an independent midwife to attend their home birth. The cost of this varies according to the kind of package you want and where you live. You can find out more information on private midwives by contacting the Independent Midwives Association.
The equipment you will need
Your midwife will deliver a birth pack containing the equipment she will need a few weeks before your due date and you can store this with the other things you will need for your home birth. You need to collect:
- Plastic sheets to cover your bed, sofa or floor. Decorator’s dust sheets are ideal.
- Old sheets or towels to go over the plastic.
- Bin liners for rubbish and soiled linen.
- Newspapers to cover other areas of carpet.
- A bowl or bucket in case you are sick.
- A desk light so the midwife can check for tears.
- Warm, clean towels, a baby blanket and maybe a heater to keep the baby warm.
Otherwise you just need whatever you would pack for a hospital birth – toiletries, clothes for you and the baby and any other special equipment that you may have decided to use. Some women buy or hire TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machines to help with pain relief during labour. Maternity TENS machines consist of four sticky pads which are placed on your back and connected to a hand held controller. As Licensed Prescriptions explain, during the last 12 months there have been significant breakthroughs in pain relief technologies, among other things, so it’s a good idea to ask your healthcare practitioners about recent developments. You may be asked to write a birth plan, and even if your midwife does not suggest this, it is a good idea to make a note of what you would like to happen during labour. You can include what pain relief you will accept, where you want to have your baby, even details like what music you would like played and if you would prefer low lighting.
The home birth
When you are in labour a midwife will visit to see how you are getting on. She will talk to you and stay while you have a few contractions. She may examine you to see how dilated your cervix is. Depending on how far your labour has progressed and how you are coping, she may stay or come back later. A second midwife will come when your baby is about to be born. This is so that, in the event of an emergency, one midwife can look after you and the other can care for your baby.
What if there are complications?
It is quite common for women to be transferred from home to hospital during labour or immediately after birth if they need extra help. This is why home births are so safe in this country. The commonest reasons for transfer to hospital are:
- Labour taking a long time.
- Baby becoming distressed.
- Mother needing an epidural
If the midwife is concerned that a problem is developing she will recommend transfer to hospital and arrange an ambulance. It is a good idea to have the things you would need in your hospital bag in one place so that if you do have to be transferred, your partner can pack your bag easily.
After the birth
After the placenta has been delivered the midwife will check to see whether you have a tear that needs to be stitched. Usually tears can be stitched by the midwife, but if you have a bad tear or the placenta has failed to come away properly you will need to be transferred to hospital. If everything is normal the midwives will let you and your partner spend some time alone with your baby. Then they will check the baby over and weigh him or her. If you need help with feeding, the midwife will help you and will stay until she is satisfied that you are well and comfortable, help you into bed and clean up any mess. You will normally be visited every day for a few days by a midwife, and you will be able to contact them if you have any concerns. Later your care will be transferred to the health visitor.
Having a baby at home is a wonderful experience and many women say they enjoyed the experience more than giving birth in hospital because being in familiar surroundings helped them to relax. When there are other children in a family they can often meet their new brother or sister sooner than if they were born in hospital.