What do I need for a home birth?
This article covers the following topics:
You don't need lots of equipment for a home birth, and the size of your home is not important, as long as you are able to provide a few essentials, and create a warm and comforting environment.
Your midwife will normally bring a homebirth kit to your home towards the end of your pregnancy, containing items which she might use. Ask her what is provided, and if there is anything else that she would like you to have ready. Some midwives suggest preparing a 'birth box' with items you'll need (see the list below).
One perception about home birth is that is messy and this can put people off choosing this option. In reality, most home births produce little mess, which is easily cleaned with some forward planning. Midwives bring large disposable pads to protect the surfaces you give birth on, and floors or beds can be covered with waterproof sheeting, a large waterproof tablecloth or old sheets. Afterwards, the midwives will clear up and remove the placenta and cord - unless you request otherwise.
In the event that your protective coverings do not catch all the mess, you can still save your soft furnishings from being permanently marked. Blot as soon as possible, and wash with biological detergent, using cold water so that the stain does not set. Bloodstains on carpets can often be removed using hydrogen peroxide from any pharmacy, after testing for colour-fastness.
Clearing up after having your baby at home is usually very straightforward; it goes without saying that the new mum should not have to do any of this herself!
You don’t need to plan a long list of special equipment for a home birth. You can make use of things which you have around you everyday (e.g. leaning over the sofa or sitting astride a kitchen chair).
You might find it useful to have the following items handy or organised though:
- The phone numbers of your midwife team.
- Somebody to look after any older children.
- Protective coverings for floor and furniture, e.g. plastic or rubber sheeting (a clean shower curtain could work), waterproof tablecloth and large disposable pads.
- Protective covering for your bed, if you are considering having your baby there (you can buy disposable bed mats or use what you have to hand).
- Something to keep your baby warm after it is born: large towel to wrap mum and baby up in cosily together, newborn nappy, hat or a light blanket. Towels can be placed on a radiator to warm them up.
- If you are using a water birth pool, lots of towels are handy as you may be in and out of the water a lot.
- Sanitary pads/maternity pads.
- Anything that will help create a calm atmosphere for you: music, soft lights, massage oil.
- Hot water bottle or hot pack for aches and pains.
- Several pairs of old knickers.
- Flannels and hair ties.
- Birthing ball or exercise ball if desired, as well as any hired equipment you would like.
- Camera/video/camera phone.
- Something to be sick in, such as a bucket, if you do feel ill.
- A mirror if you think seeing the baby's head crown would be nice or helpful.
- Tea or coffee and biscuits for the midwives (leave them out so they can help themselves).
- Drinks and nutritious food and snacks for you and your supporters.
You will also need to pack an emergency bag in case you transfer to hospital with camera, sanitary pads, change of clothes, baby clothes, nappies, etc.
Many people who choose to have a home birth also hire a birth pool. In this case, it helps if your partner can take responsibility for assembling the pool, and maintains the water at the temperature you prefer. However, a pool is by no means essential when you are having a baby at home. Read more about water birth and other ways of using water during labour in our water birth section.
The results of the Birthplace study were released in December 2011 and provide useful information for parents about their options.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about labour and life with a new baby. We also run local NCT home birth support groups: call 0300 330 0770 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find one near you.
The Home Birth Reference Site provides information and opinions about having your baby at home, for parents who think that it might be the right choice for them, and for health professionals looking for resources.
Which? and Birth ChoiceUK have developed a tool to help you find out what your choices are for giving birth in your area. This tool combines your preferences with research evidence to show the local options most suited to you.