A planned home birth can provide a unique and memorable experience. We look at the factors to consider when considering whether a home birth could be right for you.
When you're expecting a baby, you have a ton of decisions to make. You may already be thinking about choosing a name, which colour to paint the nursery, which pram to plump for, parental leave options, and maybe even which nursery (some people do like to get on the list early!)
A more immediate decision to consider is your birth plan and where to deliver your baby. A hundred years or so ago, almost all babies were born at home: by contrast, fifty years ago, almost all babies were delivered in hospital. Today this remains the norm - around 98% of babies in the UK are hospital births - but this isn't the only option.
For many expectant parents, there is a renewed desire to give birth at home - if they can. We look at the factors to consider when deciding if a home birth could be suitable for you.
Home-births - The Pros
Familiar Surroundings- at home you may feel less tense and more relaxed, a world away from the hurry-and-scurry and hi-tech medicalised world of hospitals. Staying relaxed is believed to help the production of oxytocin, which is important to help labour progress.
Staying Put- there are different stages and phases of labour, and by remaining at home you won't need to worry about the stick or twist-factor. By nurturing your nesting instinct and holing up at home, you won't risk arriving at hospital too soon - and potentially being sent home again - or else rushing to the hospital in a panic, with the possibility of arriving too late.
- Total Privacy- at home your whole experience will be private - a plus in itself but it may also allow you to have more birthing partners - family members or friends - than a hospital or birth centre may allow and even enable you to keep other children nearby.
- Birthing Pools- many hospitals and birth centres have birthing pools that you can plan to use; however these water-birth rooms may be occupied in your hour(s) of need and you may - despite your advance wishes - be required to use a regular delivery room. If your heart is set on giving birth under water, then booking a pool for use at home is worth considering.
- Continuity of Care- by arranging a homebirth, there's a greater likelihood of having the same midwife throughout your pregnancy appointments and delivery, enabling them to know you better. Equally, should you be thinking of booking a private midwife, then she will be able to assist you throughout your delivery in your own home.
- Less-likely Intervention- this can be a double-edged point (see below) but those giving birth at home are less likely have medical pain relief such as an epidural, assisted delivery using forceps or the ventouse method. Of course, should there be any complication that requires these types of intervention such as an emergency Caesarean, then urgent transfer - possibly by ambulance - to a hospital may be necessary.
Home-births - The Cons
All of the above are individually and collectively viable reasons to consider a home-birth, but there are other important factors to take into account that may temper your temptation to deliver at home.
- Access to Urgent Medical Assistance- there can be unexpected complications during birth where medical treatment becomes necessary, potentially urgent and timing can be critical. This could be the case if labour isn't progressing as expected, your baby goes into distress, or presents in any other position than head-first. You may need an epidural for pain relief, or potentially an emergency C-section. If you live a long way away from a hospital, or else somewhere where - due to traffic or weather conditions - it may be difficult to quickly reach a hospital in an emergency then you may wish to discount a home birth as an option.
- Medical History and Condition- if you are in good health and there are no apparent complications, then your GP or antenatal team may have no objections to a home birth but it's always important to seek their advice. However, if you've experienced pregnancy complications, given birth before and there were complications, or had a previous C-section - professionals may advise against this option. Similarly, if you are expecting multiple babies, if your baby is in a breach position, or you have a medical condition that may affect your pregnancy, then a hospital birth may be the recommended option.
- Changing Circumstances- some women can feel disappointed if, despite their hopes and wishes for a home birth, they end-up being transferred to hospital, and all their best-laid plans go out of the window. Ultimately, the only important thing is the safety of both mother and baby, and so although changing circumstances may not be your greatest concern, nonetheless it may be an upsetting experience, to find yourself now being cared for by other medics and midwives who you are totally unfamiliar with - especially if you prepared for a home birth, and spent considerable effort, time and money into planning it, or wished to avoid giving birth in hospital.
Whatever your thoughts on your options, do discuss them with your doctor or medical team. Bear in mind that just as you have the right to request a home birth if it is your preference, you also have the right to change your mind.
Disclaimer: Here at Bright Horizons, we understand that pregnancy and parenting isn't homogenous and it's each to their own This article is for general information purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for qualified or personal medical advice. They do not represent the views of Bright Horizons and are there solely to inform, help provoke thought and reflection on parenting situations and life dilemmas that naturally have no right or wrong answer.