Most people who have a home birth plan it. It is unusual that any of us would have to go through an unexpected home birth – thankfully! Unfortunately an unexpected home birth is exactly what happened to a dear friend of mine. She kindly shared her story with me for a recent podcast and it opened up a huge amount of interest from people on home births in general so I decided to do a little more digging around the subject.
Home births are still relatively unusual. In the UK, for example, only 15,000# births each year are home births. Even the US with its massive population could only claim 35,184* home births in 2012.
Most home births are planned (88% according to a recent study by Live Science) and unfortunately most unplanned home births result in preterm or low weight birth amongst other complications.
We’ve all heard some of the scare stories where mum gave birth to a baby in the toilet and was rushed to hospital but it’s important to note that most women who choose to have a home birth do so for reasons important to themselves.
These are some of the reasons women choose to have a home birth:
- Because it can be viewed as a less invasive, more natural way to have a baby.
- A birthing woman can feel more comfortable and at ease in her own home and in her own environment.
- Because for some women, their rights to have the labour and birth they choose might not be facilitated in a hospital setting.
- It may offer more options in terms of an active birth, with more freedom to move around and birth the baby in a preferred position.
- It can offer a greater sense of control, autonomy and “ownership” of the labour and birth.
- Homebirth advocates report that it helps women to feel empowered.
- Birthing women often report that they feel their homebirth/s is a deeply satisfying and fulfilling experience.
- Homebirth can help to involve other members of the family in the birthing experience including extended family, older children and friends.
In the case of my friend, she certainly hadn’t planned to have a home birth. In fact she was already packed for the hospital when back ache and a certain feeling that ‘something wasn’t quite right’ took place. When her husband called her on the day she was feeling “off” to tell her that he and a friend were going out to the movies, she calmly told him that she would prefer he came home that night and to bring his mate home for take-out. Just a couple of hours later, her baby was crowning whilst her husband’s friend sat on the couch studying a take-out menu!
She was lucky. Her mother had popped in to check-up on her, her husband was home and her husband’s friend was able to take care of her two year old. After a shower she reached down and felt the baby’s head and the birth passed relatively calmly after that although she admits that both she and her husband were in shock. She has nothing but applause for the St Johns Ambulance people who kept her husband on the phone throughout the process until they arrived.
Although they hadn’t planned for a home birth she had luckily read enough to know not to cut the umbilical cord – a great tip for all you at-home-birth-planners….apparently you can keep the umbilical cord attached until you have the right medical staff at your hand. It’s definitely safer to do so.
She also advises not to clear up the birthing scene until the ambulance staff have had a chance to check everything over to ensure that you haven’t lost too much blood/ that you have passed the placenta and that there is nothing unusual there.
If you are planning a home birth then do try to ensure you engage a properly qualified midwife to help you in the process and to ensure you feel completely confident and comfortable with your midwife.
And whilst you cannot predict problems, it is definitely worth while making a contingency plan for should anything go wrong, including a good transport system on hand to transport to the nearest hospital if needed.
There may of course be times when a decision needs to be made to abandon plans for a homebirth. This needs to be discussed and planned for with your midwife and partner before the event and not at the point when mother and baby are already at risk.
In the case of my friend, she was lucky and has a beautiful healthy baby girl today. She has, however, abandoned having further children. As she laughingly said, she would be worried all the way through her pregnancy that baby no.3 would pop out whilst she was driving to the shops….
Have you had a home birth experience or know someone who has? We would love to hear from you.
# Daily Telegraph UK
*Statistics taken from National Center for Health Statistics