Monday 11 February 2013

Planning a Home Birth

It was reported in last week’s Telegraph, that experts are hoping the TV show Call the Midwife will encourage more women to have their babies at home. Currently only 2.4 per cent of women choose to have their babies at home, and for first time Mums that figure is even lower.

Whenever I tell people I had my daughter at home, I am asked if this was on purpose. Most people seem surprised that anyone would choose to have their first baby out of a medical setting. I felt that by being removed from a medical environment, I would be able to enjoy a more natural birth.

I had a great birth, and if I ever give birth again, I will definitely be doing it at home.

I thought I’d write a quick list of things you’ll need for your home birth. The midwife will bring a home birth kit with everything they’ll need, so this stuff is just for you. Here goes:

Snuggled up with my hours old baby
1. Firstly, you need to decide where in your home you’d like to give birth. If you choose the bed, you will definitely want to invest in some kind of waterproof mattress protector. If, like me, you like the idea of a birthing pool, then you need to find a suitable one. You can buy birthing pools quite cheaply online now (around £100), and there may be a home birth group locally where you can rent one for a fraction of that price. I wanted one that had a temperature control on it. I didn’t like the idea of it having to be repeatedly topped up during labour. The water must be between 37-37.5 degrees C for the birth.

I rented a pool for £250 from Baby Love, because the company was local, it was dropped off for free so I saved £80 on a courier. Check online to see if there is a pool hire company local to you. The pool I used was really a hot tub so it was very sturdy for leaning on during labour.

2. You’ll need some plastic coverings and lots of towels to protect your floors and any furniture you might sit on. We bought a big tarpaulin sheet for £8 from Homebase and spread it out on the living room floor. We also had some thinner plastic sheets and old towels. One of my regrets, is not having enough plastic coverings/old towels to make a path to the bathroom. This is a bit grim, but it’s best you prepare yourself now, the amount of blood you lose following labour is epic. I wish I’d known this in advance, and had some extra towels to make a path upstairs. By the time I realised, it was too late and I just had to stay downstairs for ages when all I really wanted was a shower.

3. You want to make the room nice for giving birth in. We lit lots of candles. It felt very private and peaceful. You might also like some music to focus on during the labour. If so, make sure this is prepared in advance. Have a playlist ready on your iPod, and make sure your iPod dock is set up in the room, you don’t want a mad panic on the day. I didn’t have any music, I just wanted silence, but everyone is different.

4. Make sure you fill your freezer with ice and ice pops because you will definitely need them. I must have had about thirty ice pops while I was in labour, they were really good for cooling me down and stopping me feeling thirsty. Icy water was also really refreshing too.

Me, at the start of labour

5. The midwives will bring gas and air with them, but you should make sure you have paracetamol in the house. I took two paracetamol at the start of labour, and two halfway through. Many people shy away from home births because they think it means you have to have a natural birth, when in actual fact you can still get diamorphine and other similar painkillers at home. You just need to speak to your midwife about it in advance and they will get you a prescription for them. You might also want to stock up on strong painkillers for after the birth. No-one really talks about it, but your undercarriage will be on fire for days, so make sure you have some ibuprofen in the house.

6. If you’re having a water birth, make sure your hot water tank is full! Birthing pools are deceptively massive so it’s likely one tank won’t be enough, so make sure your water heater is on and have pans and kettles at the ready. As soon as you start feeling the tightenings of pre-labour, start filling the pool so it’s sitting ready for when you need it.

7. As well as the ice pops, I found using a cold flannel really soothing during labour. Dunking the flannel in icy water, and then lying it on the back of my neck, was a really nice sensation that helped to cool me down.

8. It’s helpful to have a thermometer handy, we used ours to check the temperature of the water, and to check my temperature when I felt I was burning up. We’d also recently been given a torch for Christmas which surprisingly came in handy during labour. The midwife used the torch to see how things were progressing, this meant we didn’t have to put the main light on at any point and disrupt the calm.

9. Make sure the room you’re going to be giving birth in is tidy. This might sound obvious, but ours wasn’t. We weren’t really expecting the baby to arrive so soon after the due date, and so we weren’t properly prepared. Everything kind of ended up shoved in a corner, and stayed that way for weeks after the birth until we had the time (and energy) to sort through it. I wish the room had been neat and tidy to start with, it would have made things much easier.

The birthing room

10. The one downside about a home birth is that there aren’t NHS cleaning staff to come in and get rid of the mess. Birth is a messy business. A very messy business, and someone needs to clean it up. Make sure you’ve got cleaning products, rags, cloths and a bucket handy. You’ll want everything cleaned up and back to normal as soon as possible, but it’s a time consuming job. My husband cleaned up while I rested. We don’t talk about it, although I have seen photos of some of the carnage.

When I was planning my home birth, I was fixated on the fact it might not happen. I could end up having to be induced, or developing a health problem that meant a home birth was out of the question, or I might end up having to be transferred to hospital while in labour. I was really worried about it. In the end, I decided to plan for the birth I wanted and stop worrying about what might happen.

Luckily, I got the birth I wanted, and am really glad I had a home birth.

You can read more about Ebony’s birth here.

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