Find out what exactly goes on when you have a baby at home, and whether giving birth at home could be for you. Here’s your guide to a different sort of birth experience…
1. Home births mean home comforts
For many women, the cuddle with your new baby on your own sofa, or snuggle with them in your own bed afterwards makes a home birth appealing. Oh, and the fact you can have a cup of tea in your favourite mug of course, and those stockpiled chocolate bars in the fridge.
2. Giving birth at home is still quite rare
Only 2.1% of births in England and Wales happened at home in 2016 (ONS, 2016). Most of the women who did give birth at home were 35 to 39 years old (ONS, 2016).
3. …That rarity of home births might change though
One in five women would like information on giving birth at home, and the support to do it (Singh and Newburn, 2000). It’s also believed that if women felt like it was totally their choice, around 10% would bring their babies into the world at home (RCOG and RCM, 2007). So if you want a home birth, speak up and definitely consider it as an option.
4. Home births can be more straightforward than hospital births
A huge bonus of a planned home birth is that it’s likely to be more straightforward than one that happens in hospital (Li et al, 2015; Rowe et al, 2016). That means lots of benefits for you, your baby and your birth partner.
5. Um, home births don’t always happen deliberately
Oh yes, something to mention. Most home births are arranged over months of planning with a midwife. Yet a small proportion of unplanned home births just happen because your baby comes along a little faster than expected…
6. Home births work best when there are no pregnancy complications
If you have a straightforward pregnancy and the baby is looking healthy, a home birth can be a strong option (Brocklehurst et al, 2011; De Jonge et al, 2014). It might be different if things are complicated though, so speak to your midwife. You can both go through your individual situation and work out what is best (NICE, 2014).
7. Home births can increase the risk of problems
If you’re having your first child, home births can slightly increase the risk of serious problems for the baby (Brocklehurst et al, 2011). One study found that four out of 1,000 women having their first baby at home had serious problems, compared with nine in 1,000 in obstetric units (Brocklehurst et al, 2011). So home births are generally not advised if you’re having a complicated pregnancy.
8. Pain relief options are more limited
If you have your baby at home, you won’t be able to have an epidural but you can still have gas and air, pethidine/diamorphine or a TENS machine (NHS Choices, 2017). You could also try relaxation or hypnobirthing techniques you’ve learned during pregnancy. Or you could ease the pain in a birthing pool or – a bonus of being at home – hop into a bath.
Do note though that most alternative pain relief techniques are not proven pain relievers (NHS Choices, 2017). Check out our page on pain relief options at a home birth for more detailed information.
9. You can always change your mind about a home birth
Whatever decision you’ve made about where you want to have your baby, you can change your mind at any point in your pregnancy. And even when you’re in labour. Your midwife can arrange for you to be transferred to hospital in an ambulance if needed, so you get there quickly for whatever you need or want.
10. Reasons for choosing a home birth vary
You might choose a home birth because you’re anxious about hospitals (maybe due to something you’ve been through before). You might also choose it because it keeps a bit more normality for older children. Whatever your reason, it’s totally valid.
11. You’ll have a midwife with you
A community midwife – or independent midwife if that’s what you’ve arranged – will pop out to you when you’re in labour (NICE, 2014). They might stay or if you’re not too far along, they may leave and come back later. See our ‘who will care for you during a home birth’ page for more info.
12. You won’t need much equipment
See our page on the equipment you’ll need to get a full picture. Most things (like towels) will be things you’ll already have in your house.
Your midwife will bring a birth pack round a few weeks before you have your baby too, with everything crucial in it. Midwives will have the same equipment at a home birth as they would have on a midwife-led unit (MLU). This includes the drugs used to prevent excessive bleeding and resuscitation equipment.
13. Your midwife can provide your aftercare in a home birth too
If you need stitches for a tear or episiotomy after you’ve had your baby, your midwife will probably be able to do those in your home. If you have a really bad tear though – or any other complications – you’ll be transferred to hospital (Brocklehurst et al, 2011).
14. Don’t worry – the mess won’t be awful
Your midwife will tidy up before she leaves, FYI. Just in case you were panicking about the blood and that cream carpet…
15. You should pack a hospital bag, just in case
You never know what will happen on the day so get a hospital bag packed just in case. Keep the things you need for the birth in a separate box that you can use at home, then it’ll be easy to sling that into the bag too if you need to be transferred to hospital.
This page was last reviewed in October 2018.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
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.
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