Birth Knowledge // All about Home Birth (no its not just for hippies!)
Welcome to today blog post, where I wanted to talk a little about home birth. Those two little words 'home' and 'birth' when put together can cause even mild mannered folk to suddenly become highly opinionated and start to either evangelize about it, or to shriek with fear that your baby's life may be in danger. I think we need to all calm down, and separate fact from fiction. To take look at what a home birth actually is, why it's not reckless and all about 'luck', and that it with a straightforward pregnancy it should be something you consider in your planning for birth and not simply dismiss out of hand. Because I imagine that you want to make all your decisions about your pregnancy, baby and child from a place of knowledge and information, not myths and hearsay. I'm absolutely not saying that home birth is right for everyone or it's the best place to give birth for you (only YOU can make that choice), it's just important that you do make it as a conscious choice - as we know that making positive choices in pregnancy and birth hugely increases our sense of having a positive birth experience - something we all want.
(If you have what's called a 'high risk' pregnancy then you may still choose to have a home birth, but you will have different issues *potentially* to consider to that my discussion below. But things such as VBAC, multiple births, gestational diabetes do NOT automatically exclude you from a home birth).
Home birth myths busted
So first of all lets look at some things that many of the couples who come along to my Hypnobirthing & Birth preparation courses often assume about home birth, before we've looked at it objectively and researched it. The most common misconceptions about a homebirth I hear are: "It's unsafe", "It's messy", "It's for hippies!" and "Its only for second (or more) time mums" - ALL of which are untrue!
Myth 1 - Home Birth is unsafe
Home birth is safe because you have midwives with you at home, just as you would in the hospital. Midwives do the same monitoring as they would in a hospital and in fact they are with you solely the entire time (in a hospital they may be with more than one women depending how busy it is). If the midwife has any concerns they act on them straight away. making home birth very safe. Your midwife will be very aware and ensure that if required you can transfer in to hospital at any point. Or indeed if you just change your mind and want to go in!
What if something goes wrong at home?
If something does go wrong at home its acted on quickly by your midwife, who has your undivided attention. Midwives are trained in emergency procedures, and have emergency drugs with them. Also to remember that things very rarely go wrong in the blink of an eye, and your midwife will get signs that something may be wrong. Your home birth midwife will be very experienced, and will stay nice and calm and call the hospital, to let them know you are on your way - so everything is ready for you when you arrive. Their job is to make sure mum and baby are kept really safe.
For large numbers of women, everything that people would associate with a positive experience of birth – homely, calm, midwife-led, low-tech environments – is also optimal for safety. The very act of being in hospital can, in some instances, cause difficulties to the labouring woman that would not necessarily have happened had she chosen to stay at home. This is known as ‘iatrogenic harm’ and may well explain why incidences of interventions such as episiotomy and instrumental delivery are so much higher for women who give birth in obstetric units, as outlined in the Nice guidelines. For first time mums, 16.5 per cent (165 per 1,000) have an episiotomy at home, while 24.2 per cent do in obstetric units. For low-risk second time (or beyond) mums, these stats are 1.5 per cent versus 5.6 per cent. They are also five times more likely to have a caesarean in hospital versus home; over four times more likely to have an instrumental delivery and twice as likely to have a blood transfusion.
While women who experience such interventions may believe that their bodies let them down and the intervention saved them, they will never know if those same problems would have occurred at all, had they stayed at home or in a midwife led unit.
And it seems that most midwives would choose to birth at home themselves, as they know its more conducive to a physiological labour and birth.
But birth is not ‘pot luck’. Women’s bodies work better in some environments, and not so well in others. There is no one answer. Sometimes our bodies don’t work well even in the very best circumstances, and in those instances, we’re very grateful for medical help.
Myth 2 - Home Birth Is Messy
A worry that pregnant couples have it that home birth will be too messy. But really it's not. You just need some coverings like old towels and maybe a sheet of plastic for carpets and your bed. If you have a birth pools then it has a disposable liner. Part of the midwives job after the birth is to clean up - and your house will be left as it was found.
Myth 3 - Home Birth Is Only For Hippies
Home birth is absolutely not just for radical, anti establishment, hemp sandal wearing hippies! This week we heard that from England team member Fabian Delph, after Englands win over Columbia (who flew home during the championships for the birth of his third child). He spoke in the interview about his amazing wife, her super strong mental focus during labour, and their THREE homebirths. I don't expect that she is a hemp wearing hippy - well she doesn't seem to be in this photo anyway (apologies for the Daily Fail link!). It's great to see someone so high profile bringing home birth into the general media in such a positive way, and starting to 'normalise' it as a real option for all couples.
Myth 4 - Home Birth Is Only For Second (or more) Time Mums
People often assume that home birth is only for women who have had a baby before. Not true. With a normal, low risk pregnancy, home birth is a real choice for first time mums absolutely.
"The labour and birth of our first babies is a time of heightened awareness, and the memories become part of who we are ans the women we become. Therefore is it really important to make the experience as good as possible so it become a pleasant memory" Caroline Flint, Home Birth Midwife
If you live on top of a mountain, or on a remote island and miles away from a hospital it is probably not a good idea to have a home birth for your first child. However if you live with a hospital within easy reach, its perfectly reasonable to book a home birth for a first birth. Your body does not need to have 'proved itself' with a previous birth for you to then have a home birth for subsequent children.
And I have had MANY couples who have chosen a home birth for a first birth after coming on my Hypnobirthing & Birth Preparation courses in York, where I explain how your birth environment can have such a huge impact your birth hormones and so your labour and birth. And none of these couples have regretted that decision, and they have felt so empowered in making the choice.
Myth 5 - If you book a home birth you can't change your mind
When you book for a homebirth, you don't necessarily give birth at home. You can change your mind and go into hospital at any time you choose to. You may decide that you need an epidural, you may decide you feel safer there, you may get bored and think a change of scene will accelerate things. Everything is flexible.
Why Home Birth Can Be A Great Place To Birth
Homebirth is fairly unusual these days, but this hasn't always been the case. We are mammals (like cars, dogs and sheep), and like all other mammals we are surprisingly good at giving birth. Like mammals we are also very instinctive. We choose to move around in labour instinctively, we need privacy in labour (like a cat going under the bed in the attic to birth), we also need darkness to release more of the birth hormone oxytocin.
The best thing about a home birth is being in a safe and special place (your home), feeling relaxed, having all the privacy you need help your body's hormones and the process of labour work as effectively as possible (meaning a smoother and potentially shorter labour), having familiarity of the place (the smells and sounds, your own things around you), having all the food and snacks available too. It's the calm and relaxing environment that allows you to birth your baby as your body was designed to. So choosing the place where you will feel this, is really important in choosing where to birth your baby. And for some women this choice absolutely might be a hospital setting, and not at home. Again - it's all about understanding birth and making a choice.
Birth Is All About Choice
But the main thing, I feel, is choice. Choice in how to give birth and where is what matters most. And that you make the choice that is right for you and your baby. From a place of information and knowledge, not from a place of fear, myth or hearsay.
I hope that this blog post has helped you to think about what a home birth is, and perhaps explore some more about it as an option for your labour and birth. I really love sharing information like this and helping you to have the most positive and confident pregnancy and birth possible that is right for you and your baby. Do check out my other birth and pregnancy blog posts here, and to prepare fully for your birth, embrace and understand it, and to learn the brilliant hypnobirthing techniques that can help you have a calm, confident and positive birth experience do come and join me in person for myFor Modern Mothers Hypnobirthing & Birth Preparation course.
Plus I also have a YouTube channel with lots of tips and techniques on too here - www.formodernmothers.video
And do let me know if you have any questions at all, I love to hear from you. Either leave them in the comment below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org Susan xx