When I shared that our latest birth was a home birth (you can read all about it here), I was inundated with questions from people wanting to know more. You know, the silly things that you’ve always wondered all about and really wanted to know? I’ve pulled together some of the questions we’ve been asked over and over – including the ‘who cleans up’ one that everyone asks! – so that you can find out what actually goes down for a home birth. Even if you just wanted to be nosey, you’ve come to the right place! AND if there’s anything you still want to know after then feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.
Before we start, a little disclaimer – these answers are all based on our personal experiences of a home birth. We’re not medical professionals and you should always check with your midwife or healthcare provider if you have any care based queries. We’re covered by RD&E Hospital in Devon and care varies depending on your trust. Basically, check everything! Happy? Then let’s crack on.
Why Would You Go For A Home Birth?
We chose to go for a home birth for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there were restrictions at our hospital due to the pandemic which meant that visitors were on stricter patterns and would be required to leave straight after the birth. We also knew that past labours of mine were rapid and felt that a home birth might be safer than driving in. I also really liked the idea of being able to get straight into my own bed although in reality I didn’t get into it for about 6 hours and then the midwife turned up again 30 minutes later… but that 30 minutes was bliss!
Was Everyone On Board With The Home Birth Plan?
I’ll be honest, it took some convincing to get Dave on board and I wouldn’t have done it if he wasn’t happy. We both thought that we would probably end up in hospital anyway so he was happy to try. We purposefully didn’t mention it to many people because everyone has a story or an opinion – we felt we would rather keep it to ourselves and see what happened. I think our parents in particular found it difficult given that they were very used to the whole ‘you go to a hospital to have a baby’ scenario (as were we!) but once we’d decided everyone was really supportive of it. Even if they did think we were mad at the time.
What Do You Need? Do You Have To Have A Pool?
You really don’t need much to have a home birth; plenty of towels, they recommend a shower curtain or a groundsheet to put on the floor/bed/sofa and that’s about it. We chose to have a pool which I hired from Gentle Births – that came with all the bits like a thermometer, pump, hose etc. The midwives bring everything else with them in some massive big bags that they carry – and they take it all away too! At my first home birth appointment they gave me a little list of things whilst talking through my birth preferences and that was that!
Where Do You Give Birth?
Literally anywhere in the house that you want to! For a pool the midwife needs to be able to get all of the way around it so that they can access everything. We set ours up in the lounge and moved a big chair out into our dining area but I could’ve gone anywhere; bedroom, sofa, kitchen floor, bathroom… you’ll just know when it happens where you want to be! I chose the lounge because I wanted to be able to draw the curtains (our dining area doesn’t have any) and I liked the idea of being near the sofa. I also really didn’t fancy giving birth on or in my own bed – I wanted to save that and keep it fresh for that moment after the baby was born!
How Do You Get A Home Birth?
I joined some Facebook groups and some of them were very ‘anyone can have a home birth if they want it, just do it’. Personally I’d rather follow the guidance of my care providers so this is based on what they suggested etc. I was recommended a home birth at my 8 week booking in appointment – I was offered them at both of my first two pregnancies. This was based on me being low risk and having precipitous (less than 2 hour) labours. My trust has a dedicated home birth team so usually I would transfer to them earlier in pregnancy but as the uptake was high due to the pandemic, my care didn’t transfer until 35 weeks. At that point I saw a midwife at home for a home check, had a scan at 37 weeks to check baby was head down and was signed off for a homebirth at this point. Then it was simply a case of waiting for baby to make an appearance. I had to call the hospital triage line, request the homebirth team and they rung back to confirm they had staffing to cover me. And so it began!
I Heard Lots Of Home Births Get Cancelled – Why?
I was told mine would be cancelled if I became a higher risk or if there was inadequate staffing. Previously at my trust, a home birth would require midwives to come off of the labour ward so they were often too busy to handle them. We were fortunate that they now have a dedicated team who aren’t called in to the hospital unless they really need to be. They told me they can manage multiple births at once sometimes and that the likelihood was that it would be fine as they’re all very flexible. If you’re in a busy area I would imagine this is different. I also know many were cancelled because of ambulances being too busy to be able to attend if required – you transfer via ambulance if transferring in or post labour.
What Is A Home Birth Like?
Amazing, bizarre, mind-blowing, calm, peaceful, surreal… it’s a very different experience to a hospital birth. You can read all about ours here.
Do The Midwives Bring Towels/Blankets/Drugs?
So many people asking about the drugs! The midwives bring Entinox (gas and air) with them which you can use – mine told me she didn’t have much so to use it sparingly but I used far less than expected and they can get more brought out when they change shifts! You have to provide your own towels and blankets, they also recommend incontinence pads as these can be binned after and are great for absorbing blood/waters etc. The midwife brings two big bags full of various packs – swabs, stuff to do stitches, resuscitation equipment, a computer, phone, gas and air, scales… pretty sure I even saw forceps bag in there! It’s amazing – basically everything that you could have on a midwife led unit is available to you at home.
Why Do They Transfer You In?
I was told that the main reasons for transfer are usually a slow progression of labour (this would happen on a midwife led unit as well) or postpartum for checks regarding baby’s temperature or mum’s recovery (tears/bleeds etc). They reassured us that the minute something didn’t look right, they’d act upon it due to the length of journey we had from the hospital. I found that the midwives worked really hard to ensure that I would avoid a transfer, including staying longer with us postnatally to get our little one’s temperature up, thus avoiding having to transfer in for checks. Because everything was more relaxed, I felt confident that they were making the best calls for us and that they’d do everything possible to keep us at home in a safe manner.
Is It Messy? Do You Get Blood On The Carpet?!
Birth is actually way less messy than you think, and I imagined! I gave birth in a pool and my waters went in the pool so obviously a dry land birth may be slightly different but yes, there is a little blood and no, it didn’t go on the carpet or sofas. We put two shower curtains down, one on the sofa, one on the floor, covered the sofa in towels and everything went in the wash afterward. No blood to be found. The worst bit was climbing my newly carpeted stairs to have a shower – I was terrified of getting blood on the new carpet but we wedged a pad and a towel between my legs and climbed them really carefully!
What Happens If You Poo In The Pool?
Ha! I feel like this is such a common birth question. Pooing in labour is really normal! You’re told to get a sieve (like one you’d use in the kitchen) and then they scoop it out if it’s in the way or you clean everything out at the end when you clean the pool. Even with no poo, there were still bits in our pool from the waters breaking etc. It was crystal clear and part interesting, part gross!
Who Cleans Up?
The midwives cleaned up most of the stuff post birth, folded up all the towels, had a big bin-liner of various swabs and pads etc as well as a bag for the placenta that they dispose of. All we had to clear up was the pool which was surprisingly easy – the pump is just reversed and put it the pool to pump out the water either to a drain, sink or toilet. You scoop out any ‘bits’ in there first (yum) and then once it’s empty, take the liner off and bin the liner. It took Dave about an hour of pumping and twenty minutes to pack it away. Our baby was born just after 4.30 am, the midwives left around 6.30/7am, I text my family and they thought it was an April Fool’s so I had to send a picture of the room – it’s immaculate except for the inflated pool being up and a big pile of towels that we washed later that day!
Did You Get The Famous Tea & Toast?
Eventually! I had my stitches, a shower and was sat on the sofa feeding the baby when I finally asked Dave to make me some sugary tea and a slice of toast. You’d think that he’d jump at the chance given that he’d been sat around most of the time and I’d just produced another human but I think I had to ask him three times before he remembered. He spent more time offering the midwives snacks and drinks (they had one cup of tea all night – superheroes!).
What Was The Scariest Part?
Our hospital is 45 minutes away by car, so our biggest worry was that something would go wrong and we’d need to transfer. In the moment, I don’t think I thought of it once but in the build up it was definitely this bit that terrified us the most.
What Was The Best Part?
Being at home! Everything was just there, only one extra person (our midwife just sat in the corner!) for most of it, no buzzers or alarms. My own sofa after. My own shower after. Sitting on my own bed with my pjs on less than an hour after birth. No driving too and from hospital. No visiting hours. No stress about who was where. Seeing my older children a few hours later with no restrictions. Honestly, it was all amazing, if not slightly surreal to give birth in the front room! Additionally all of my care was at home – from my 35 week appointment through until I was finally signed off at two weeks postpartum. It meant that Dave could be present throughout and that even the children could get involved, a huge difference from the community midwife appointments I had prior to 35 weeks that were strictly only for me to attend alone.
Where Can I Find Out More?
Ask your midwife and look up Facebook groups. I would say that some Facebook groups can come across as a bit evangelical about home births and push them at any cost. I found that Homebirth UK had some good information and support but some members are more determined than others and eventually I left the group because it was a bit much! I did the Birth-Ed hypnobirthing course this time and found that they had some very balanced information supported with research around birth preferences without it feeling like a certain narrative was being pushed on me. Personally I found it easier not to tell too many people our plans to home birth as I found some of the comments well-meaning but off-putting. Afterwards though it’s amazing how many people turn out to have had one – it’s a little club!
Would You Do It Again?
I’m pretty sure (Dave’s a definite!) that our family is complete as a party of five but, if I was to have another, I’d definitely consider a home birth again. I always worry that I wouldn’t be that lucky to have things go so well the second time but the idea of going back to a hospital birth seems pretty alien right now. I’d definitely recommend researching it as a possibility if you’re even considering one – it might be the best decision you ever make!
And that’s a wrap. If you have any more questions, feel free to pop me a message or drop them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer. Always happy to jabber on about births in any format but particularly home births!