Newest Review: ... especially as they relate to my particular circumstances and the risks I personally might face. A fantastic resource for this type of ... more
Member Name: historywitch
Advantages: Can relax in own home, no hospital slowing down labour, you are in control
Disadvantages: Not a good idea if you are high risk
This is a subject close to my heart as I was lucky enough to have my second child, my son Sebastian at home six weeks ago. Having had my daughter in hospital with disinterested staff, a midwife only for the last hour of labour and an awful postnatal experience I was terrified at the thought of having to have my next baby in the hospital again. Thankfully as I had a very supportive midwife and a husband who had seen what the first labour had done to me and was 100% behind me, I booked a homebirth at 16 weeks.
What is a homebirth?
As the name suggests you labour and deliver at home with a midwife, only transferring to a hospital if an emergency occurs. Once the baby is delivered you are left to enjoy your new arrival in your own home.
Who can have a homebirth?
Technically any woman can, but if you are classed as high risk in any way then it is probably not a good idea. I was low risk throughout my pregnancy and having delivered my daughter naturally already then the midwives were happy for me to deliver at home. Some midwives will allow you to deliver twins or breech babies at home but for these and any other medical problems you are generally safer being close to any medical technology you might need.
Why would you have a homebirth?
The biology of birth is complicated but stress and discomfort can often slow the process and make it more painful and difficult. Bright lights, extra people observing, pressure of any sort (such as a deadline to deliver) and unsympathetic health professionals all contribute. Proponents of natural birth such as M. Odent have observed a lower rate of intervention if they provide a relaxing, dark, woman-centred area to give birth in. Birth in hospital can often lead to a cascade of intervention if you do not labour in the prescribed or normal way. I laboured at home comfortably and confidently for 17 hours before entering the hospital at 8 centimetres dilated with my daughter, but once in the hospital in the sterile delivery room, left alone, not knowing how to get anything I needed (even to find the toilet) my contractions got more painful as I got more frightened. The five screaming hours before she was born were the worst of my life and when we finally got an unsympathetic midwife to come and check me (who pressed the alert button as I was about to deliver) I was a mess. The postnatal experience in a dirty, crowded, noisy ward, without my husband and with midwives treating me like a number and not a person combined to give me postnatal depression and made it very hard to bond with my daughter. With my son I pottered around the house, listened to music and had the most amazing delivery on my sofa. After he was born I used my own (clean) bathroom, got into my own bed with my husband and we got to know our new baby, before our daughter got up 7 hours later. Most important for me was the fact that I didn't have to get in the car and interrupt my labour or have the fear of the unknown waiting for me at the hospital. I was also concerned about all the germs and bugs at the hospital, apparently the rate of postnatal infection is 25% in hospital, compared with 4% at home (Homebirth website).
What do I need?
Shower curtains/dustsheets to protect your carpets/furniture
Old sheets/towels (In my pregnancy mania I had them sorted into large, medium and small sizes!)
A birthpool if you want to labour in water (no uncertainty about the availability of the hospital pool if you have your heart set on a waterbirth).
The midwives bring everything else, including Entonox (gas and air), stuff to stitch you up, protective absorbent pads, scales, infant recusitation equipment and a range of injections including the syntometrine for the placenta and Vitamin K for the baby.
What about the mess?
We are living in a rented house with white carpets. When my waters broke my husband gaffa-taped a shower curtain onto the lounge floor and two more on the (cloth) sofa. We then covered this with old towels and sheets and bagged up the sofa cushions in two black bags each. The midwives brought absorbent pads which absorbed my waters/blood which they changed regularly. After my son was born I was in the shower and they bagged up every dirty sheet and towel and put them into clinical waste bags which they took away with them. Once they were gone you couldn't even tell I had given birth in the lounge, apart from the new baby of course!
They even loaded the washing machine with the bits I wanted to keep and started it going!
What if something goes wrong?
An important consideration is distance from hospital. We live 15 minutes away, 5 minutes under a blue light, so I knew if anything did occur then I could be in an operating theatre almost as quickly as if I had been at hospital. Generally though if a woman is low-risk the chances of something going wrong is tiny and as you have a midwife there observing you they can pick up anything worrying very very quickly. I pointed out to my (doubting) mother that anything could have gone wrong with my first birth and it would have taken them much longer to realise as they were only checking me every hour- whereas I had a midwife there most of the time and on the end of a mobile any time I needed her; and another for the baby when he arrived. Midwives can deal with most problems such as shoulder dystocia, unresponsive baby, post-partum haemorrhage etc and can stitch up to a second degree tear. Homebirths have a much lower transfer/intervention/mortality rate than hospital births, probably because the woman is much more relaxed and less likely to tense up. There is more information on this on the Homebirth website, under the 'But what if....' section.
You have to have midwives in your house. Mine was not very sympathetic and it was only when she left that proper active labour kicked in-but because it was my house I could encourage her to leave.
You can't have any stronger pain relief than pethidine, which has to be ordered in advance and certainly not an epidural. Midwives bring Entonox and you can use TENs, water, massage etc.
You can feel like a failure if you have to transfer for any reason, such as failure to progress, or stitching after the birth.
Its not a good idea if you are high risk
People often think you are crazy/dangerous even though you have a trained medical professional with you-what IS crazy is freebirthing where you give birth unattended.
My waters started leaking at 4 am and as I was experiencing mild contractions I put on the TENs machine and called the delivery suite. My husband prepared the lounge for the birth, we called my mother to look after my daughter and I got on the birth ball and started rocking. My daughter wandered in and out, giving me cuddles as I laboured and drew pictures of me on the ball. After 17 hours of labour I was still at 3 centimetres dilated and getting slightly discouraged, so I lay down for a rest and had a cry on my mother. Twenty minutes later contractions were coming thick and fast and I was groaning gently in pain as my husband rubbed my back and my mother rubbed my stomach. My mother-in-law was called to take the place of my mother in caring for my daughter and she sat in the kitchen and waited with my mother's partner (eating pizza!). Suddenly it felt like my pelvis was being pulled apart and I lost control, moaning and crying, leaning against the sofa and my husband.
After some tentative pushes I realised the pain stopped when I pushed so I climbed on the sofa and with my mother on one side and my husband on the other I pushed my 9lbs 6oz son out. It took just three minutes (thank-you raspberry leaf tea) and the midwives left me alone totally until I called them over to deliver the head. It was an astonishing experience after my previous birth, I was painfree and in some primal place deep inside, I didn't need to make any sounds.-except when my husband tried to show my mother how the TENs machine worked and electrocuted me! My son was placed on my chest and I felt that wave of love that all the books tell you is supposed to happen, but sadly didn't with my daughter. The midwives told me later it was a perfect gentle birth and they immediately started trying to persuade my husband to write about it to encourage other husbands to let their wives birth at home, which was a bit surreal at the time to be honest. I had a tiny tear which was stitched there and then before I had a shower and sat down to feed my son before he was passed around the gathered family. He latched on perfectly and fed like a pro which was astonishing to me as my daughter would not feed at all from the breast (pethidine administered twenty minutes before birth made her sleepy). Once we were all clean and settled the midwives left and we all climbed into bed. Wonderful. My mother did not intend to be there at the gory bit but I am so glad she was...and my mother-in-law too, as it brought us all together. Needless to say they are all now passionately pro-homebirth!
For more information the best place is :
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