Our practical guide to arranging a home birth helps you to consider the realities of having a home birth – from the size of your flat to making arrangements for other children and pets.
Are you wondering whether your one-bedroom flat is big enough for the midwife’s equipment, your carpets will be ruined, or your neighbours will hear your every push through the thin walls? You’ve come to the right place.
What is it like to have a home birth?
In this video, Becca, Katie and Emily talk about why they chose to give birth at home and what the experience was like:
Is my home big enough for a home birth?
It’s very unlikely that your home is too small for a home birth. After all, the room you’d give birth in at a hospital is unlikely to be much larger than a studio flat.
Most midwives would like to have access to a toilet, running water, electricity and a phone (either landline or mobile with signal) when they help you give birth – a kettle for making tea is a nice bonus.
It’s worth bearing in mind that giving birth in a small home could mean there isn’t space for a birth pool, or that it might be best for your children or pets to be looked after elsewhere while you’re in labour. But size is not an obstacle to having your baby at home if that’s what you want to do.
Still undecided on where to give birth? Use our Birth Choice tool to find out if a home birth is the best choice for you.
Is a home birth messy?
There’s inevitably a bit of mess with any birth, but a bit of forward planning will make it manageable if you’re at home. Read our home birth checklist for a list of things you might want to get ready before you go into labour to protect your floors and furniture.
Your midwife will bring large disposable absorbent pads to go underneath you when you’re giving birth. After your baby’s arrived, the midwife will make sure your home is clean and tidy before they leave.
It’s unlikely you’ll end up with any permanent reminders of your home birth on your carpet.
Can I have a water birth at home?
Many women choosing to have their baby at home want to use a birth pool for pain relief, or to have a water birth. Read more about having a home water birth, as you’ll need to know if your home is suitable for a birth pool.
If you’re not planning on using a birth pool, you might want to give your bath or shower a good clean, just in case you decide during labour that you want to use water for pain relief.
Also take a look at the other methods of pain relief that are available to you at home.
What if I need to go to the hospital?
It’s not uncommon to transfer to the hospital, either during labour or shortly after the baby is born. Of women planning a home birth who have had a baby before, 12% are transferred to hospital during or after labour, according to the findings of the Birthplace Study, which looked at more than 64,000 low-risk mothers giving birth. First-time mothers are more likely to be moved, with 45% of those who plan a home birth being transferred. Being prepared for this can help you feel more relaxed during labour.
Here are a few practical questions to ask yourself:
- Are there several flights of stairs to climb? It can be comforting to know that paramedics are used to helping people down stairs, although it could of course be uncomfortable for you to be taken down the stairs if you’re in labour or have just given birth.
- Is there road access for an ambulance or taxi? If you live in a very remote area, discuss with your midwife how you would be transferred so you’re comfortable with the arrangements.
- Is there parking space? If your road is usually full of parked cars, you may be able to reserve a parking space in advance by speaking to your neighbours and putting out traffic cones.
- Is there space for you to be taken out in a wheelchair or on a stretcher, if necessary? If your front door has a narrow opening, perhaps you can go through the back door.
Can children be present during a home birth?
It’s entirely up to you if want to have your older children at home while you give birth.
If you do decide to have them there, you may want to explain a bit about what’s likely to happen – the noises you might make, what it might look like and that it’s not dangerous. You can also let them know in advance that you could decide to go to hospital, so they won’t be frightened in the event of a transfer.
During labour, it’s probably best to have someone other than yourself and your birth partner to look after the children. You’ll both become increasingly preoccupied as you get closer to giving birth, and you may need to go to the hospital at some point.
Be prepared to be flexible – your children may decide to watch the birth, or keep well away, or they may sleep through it all and wake up to find they have a new baby brother or sister.
Can pets be home during a home birth?
You don’t have to send away your pets before giving birth, but planning for cats and dogs to be in another room while you’re in labour might make you all more comfortable.
Some pets may be distressed to hear you in pain. If you think this will make you upset, you might be better off planning for your pets to be looked after elsewhere. On the other hand, some owners report that their pets seem to intuitively understand the importance of the event and be calmer than usual.
Should I tell my neighbours about my home birth?
There’s no requirement for you to tell your neighbours that you’re planning to give birth at home, but doing so might save you a 4am knock on the door from a concerned neighbour.
If for any reason you feel very uncomfortable at the thought of your neighbours hearing you give birth, or seeing you be transferred to hospital via an ambulance, maybe you’d feel more relaxed giving birth in a birth centre or labour ward instead.
Can I get breastfeeding help after a home birth?
There’s no reason why giving birth at home should mean you get less breastfeeding support. Being at home provides a good opportunity to have uninterrupted time for skin-to-skin contact with your baby after the birth, which can help with the process of starting breastfeeding, and some babies will instinctively start to breastfeed given this opportunity.
Your midwife will be there immediately after the birth to give you support breastfeeding, if that’s what you’ve chosen to do. They’ll make sure that your baby is able to latch on and suckle effectively before they leave. A midwife will return the next day, and you can always ask them for additional support.
More from Which?
- Use our Birth Choice tool to help you find the right place for you to give birth.
- Picking up a new steam cleaner can make it that much easier to clean away any potential home-birth mess.
- Writing a birth plan gives midwives, doctors and your birth partner a clear idea of what’s important to you – wherever you plan to give birth.