Homebirth – The Way Forward?

Did you know that having a homebirth is said to be statistically as safe, if not safer, than hospital births for low risk cases?

It Is also less likely to result in the usage of pharmaceutical medication, intervention and Caesarean section and costs the NHS less than an average hospital birth.

Did you know that every woman in the UK has a legal right to plan a homebirth?

So, why are an increasing number of women choosing to birth their babies at home? The reasons vary, but one of the most common reasons (and indeed my own response to the “why do you want a homebirth?” question) is that more and more women believe that birth is a natural process and women were designed to give birth..Our bodies and the delicate balance of chemicals in our brain know how to do it and if so, then why do we need to go into a hospital and have what is an inherently natural process turned into a medically managed event? We are not sick, we are pregnant!

By choosing a homebirth we are regaining the control and become able to participate fully in, what should be, the magical event of childbirth. Other reasons for choosing a homebirth might be:

  • You already have children and are worried about childcare or would like them to be involved
  • You want to guarantee the use of a birthing pool (by hiring your own for use at home)
  • You are worried about the risk of infection in hospital
  • You want to reduce the likelihood of intervention and a Caesarean Section
  • You would like your partner to be more involved
  • You have a history of a previous speedy delivery
  • You want to reduce the need for pain medication during labour
  • You want to increase your chances for successful breastfeeding and easier bonding
  • You would like your care to be from midwives you know (not guaranteed but much more likely if you are at home!).


How do the statistics of homebirths compare to those of hospital births?

At the beginning of the last century 99% of births were at home, by 1980 this figure had reversed, with less than 1% of births at home, but by the end of the 90s this figure was on the way up with just over 2% of births at home. In 1995 The National Birthday Trust published a study of over 6000 planned homebirths and concluded that:

  • The home birth group had roughly half the risk of ending up with a Caesarean section, compared with the hospital group.
  • The home birth group had roughly half the risk of ending up with a ventouse or forceps delivery
  • Mothers who planned home births were less likely to suffer a post-partum haemorrhage.
  • Babies in the planned home birth group were significantly less likely to be in poor condition at birth, suffer from birth injuries or need resuscitation.

How does the care differ from a hospital birth?

Antenatal care does not differ regardless of the type of birth you book. Typically at 37 weeks you will meet with your midwife who will deliver a “Homebirth pack” (which usually contains medication for preventing blood loss/to aid in the delivery of the placenta/vitamin K for the baby as well as cord clamps, needles for stitches etc). On the day your labour starts you are usually advised to contact your midwives direct or to phone your local labour ward (you are still advised to book with a local hospital). You will then be visited by one or two community midwives who, depending upon progress, will either stay with you or return once labour is more established. You will be regularly monitored (if you so wish) with a Sonicaid (handheld heartbeat monitor), temperature and pulse checks to ensure you and the baby are coping well.

Whilst epidurals are not available at home, all other methods of pain relief are, these include entonox (gas and air) and pethidine. As well as more natural methods such as TENs, HypnoBirthing, aromatherapy, acupuncture, homeopathy and water. It has been repeatedly shown that women choosing to birth at home require less pain relief than those who give birth in hospital, even those who transfer to hospital during their labour. Again in my own experience I can verify this, having used an epidural to give birth to my first two children, both hospital births, my third was born at home with no pain relief at all. Then once the baby is born the midwives will perform a check on the baby’s welfare (the APGAR scores) and will ensure that the placenta is delivered safely, any wounds are stitched and that your uterus is contracting back down nicely. Once everything is settled (usually 2 or 3 hours after the birth) they will leave you in peace to enjoy your new baby.

The midwives attending you will not just pack up and leave though! After my son was born I had a lovely bath (in my own – clean – bath I hasten to add!) when I came back downstairs (to the room I had birthed in) I found everything was clean and tidy, with the protective pads the midwives had supplied packed up in bin bags, the towels we had used neatly folded into a dirty and clean pile and the placenta long since tidied away! All we had left to do was to empty the pool and enjoy our new baby! They even made up my bed for me to get into and enjoy our first night at home with our new baby – not a single uncomfortable plastic hospital bed in sight!From then on care is the same as for a hospital birth, usually with another visit the next day (or sooner if you request). Usually a GP will visit soon after the birth to perform a more thorough new baby check, although sometimes you are requested to attend hospital for this, as you are with the newly introduced newborn hearing check.

In conclusion, if you are one of the 16% of women who recently expressed their interest in giving birth at home (MORI poll by the Expert Maternity group), a good first step would be to visit the UK’s homebirth advisory website or to contact The Positive Birth Movement for details of a support group near to you. If you have any difficulties in booking a homebirth, then contact AIMs for help and support.

Interested in hearing more? Come and join me on my Birthlosophy Facebook page to chat about all thing pregnancy and birth!



About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
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