What is it like to have a home birth?

That’s a picture of my second baby, Stella, a couple of hours’ old, after being born at home in June 2013. I chose to have a home birth second time around for a number of reasons – mainly because I didn’t have the best experience with my son’s birth three years earlier. The pregnancy wasn’t an enjoyable experience, I was very fearful, and so unsurprisingly my labour was slow and ended in a whole load of interventions. Zac is now 8, so this was in the distant past, long before Suffolk Babies, and despite going to some antenatal classes, I hadn’t really understood the importance of the positive hormone cycle and what I needed to do to aid my body in labour. If only I’d known Emily and Jo back then!

So second time around I educated myself on labour and figured out what I needed to do differently this time.

I learned about how important it is to stay calm and relaxed, and as I was low risk for any complications, it seemed like a natural choice to me to give birth at home.

The thing about homebirth is that it’s generally very safe and outcomes are just as good as giving birth in hospital if you have no complications. Here’s what the Ipswich Hospital’s website has to say about homebirth:

A recent study (known as the ‘Birthplace study’) looked at a large number of women with no complications in pregnancy and compared the safety of births in four settings. The study showed that for women who planned to give birth at home (or in a midwife-led unit) there is a higher likelihood of a normal birth and significantly less intervention such as Caesarean section, epidural, episiotomy or instrumental birth.

Points to consider for a home birth

  • Birth in a familiar and comfortable environment.
  • Keeps the birth process as normal as possible.
  • Women who give birth at home report needing fewer drugs for pain relief or intervention in labour.
  • Less disruption to family life.
  • Reduced risk of hospital acquired infection.

I also had the holy grail of modern Midwifery: continuity of care. I saw the same Midwife throughout my pregnancy, and then she cared for me during my labour and after the birth. I realise I was lucky here, as she literally lives round the corner from me and was on call when I needed her.

I am really tempted to write a blow-by-blow account of my homebirth but like when someone tells you about their dreams you probably won’t find the story as exciting as I do! If you enjoy reading birth stories, the whole thing is in the Positive Birth Stories section of our blog. The important thing to say is that the theory worked – being calm and relaxed did speed things up. For example, when my 3 year old was collected and taken away by his grandparents,despite having had mild contractions all day, it was only when he left and I went and had a lie down, that it all kicked off properly. Did I mention that it was his birthday? I spent the day entertaining him and the family, and basically crossing my legs waiting for them all to leave. Going for a nice walk up the road in the sunshine also helped. I stayed mobile and active throughout my labour, and did a lot of pacing around the house. By the time I phoned the hospital, it was all progressing so quickly I didn’t feel like I would have made it into hospital, even if I’d wanted to go!

I had a birth pool all blown up and ready to fill, but when my Midwife arrived she took one look at me and said to my husband, “You won’t get that filled up in time!” (You can borrow a birth pool from the Suffolk Home Birth group – see below for details.) I gave birth in my living room kneeling in front of the sofa – a nice upright position which felt completely natural. It was all very textbook and straightforward, and being at home felt absolutely comfortable.

One thing I would say about homebirth though, is be prepared for mess! You may need a lot of dark coloured towels and / or plastic sheeting, depending on where in the house you end up giving birth. But that’s not your problem, that’s for your birth partner to deal with 😉

The wonderful thing about being at home is that afterwards I went upstairs and had a bath in my own bath, then I went to bed in my own bed, with my baby on one side and my husband on the other, and had the best cheese sandwich and cup of tea in the world, ever. I know people rave about the toast in hospital, but for me a cheese sandwich in bed beat hospital toast hands down. It’s also much easier to sleep and recover at home, and helpful for older siblings by keeping things as ‘normal’ as possible.

And all of a sudden, you’re a mum of two!

Of course homebirth isn’t for everyone, and just like with c-sections, inductions and any other way of birthing a baby, the important thing is choosing the way that is right for you. Consider your options, do your research, and trust your instincts. With my first baby a hospital birth was absolutely the right thing for me at that time, and with my second, the homebirth was exactly what I wanted. There really is no one-size-fits-all approach.

We are all adults, and old enough to take on the huge responsibility of becoming parents. That’s why I firmly believe that we are also capable of making informed choices about how and where we give birth. We are so incredibly fortunate to have these amazing options: from giving birth at home, to in a Midwife-led Unit, to in a hospital theatre, all with the very best modern medical care available to us.

Some people plan a homebirth and end up with an emergency c-section. Some people plan an induction but then the baby comes early. Some people plan a waterbirth in hospital, but then the baby comes at home before they can get in the car. For many people their birth goes exactly as they had planned it! As the picture at the very top of this email says, the power of a birth plan isn’t the actual plan. It’s the process of becoming educated about all your options. That way, if plans change, as they often do, you can have the confidence to be able to roll with it and still have a positive experience.

Our team has such a range of birth experiences between us, including three Midwives who really have seen it all, so if you want to chat to any of us about any aspect of birth we are always happy to help. To find out more about home birth, see the Suffolk Home Birth Facebook page. Claire Miller runs the group and has three birth pools for people to borrow (subject to availability) and is an incredible source of knowledge and resources. Having had positive and fulfilling birthing experiences with both her children, born at home in Martlesham in 2015 and 2017, Claire was drawn to train as an antenatal educator and create the Suffolk Home Birth free community group to encourage and support expectant parents considering home birth.

Claire is organising a home birth meet-up on 11th April at 6:30pm. If you are expecting a baby and considering which birth location is right for you please join us for this evening dedicated to all things home birth. Here is the Facebook event page

If you have any questions about homebirth, do chat to me (Katie) in the centre / via email, or drop Claire a line on claire.miller@suffolkbabies.co.uk.

Here is the Ipswich Hospital page on home birth: http://www.ipswichhospital.nhs.uk/maternity/home-birth.htm

And here is the NHS page on choosing where to give birth: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/where-can-i-give-birth


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