What is a home birth like?
Having a home birth can be a good option if you want to give birth naturally in familiar settings. Being at home means you’re in a place where you already feel comfortable which may help you feel relaxed and more able to cope with the pain of labour.
- If you want to use water in labour or have a home water birth you can hire or buy a birth pool.
- You’ll be transferred to a local hospital if the midwife is concerned for the health of you or your baby.
Around 2.3% of women give birth at home in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Becca, Katie and Emily talk about why they chose to give birth at home and share their experiences in the video below.
Is a home birth safe?
Home births are generally safe but every pregnancy and woman is different. If you’re having an uncomplicated pregnancy with a second or subsequent baby, a home birth is as safe for your baby as a hospital birth.
If you’re having a straightforward pregnancy with your first child, giving birth at home is slightly less safe for the baby than if you give birth in a labour ward. So when planning where to give birth you should discuss your personal circumstances with your midwife to decide what would be right for you.
If you’ve been told you’re at higher risk of complications, your midwife or doctor is likely to advise against a home birth. But it’s still worth discussing your options with them.
- Find out more about the safety of home births and how to negotiate your care if you’re at increased risk of complications.
- Use our Birth Choice tool to see if a home birth would be a good fit for you.
Will a midwife be with me during my home birth?
Once you’ve booked to have a home birth with the NHS, you will usually be looked after by community midwives who cover your local area.
When you’re in labour one of them will come to your house to support you. There will normally be two midwives with you by the time you’re in the later stages of labour and for the birth of your baby.
One of the benefits of a home birth is that your midwife will only be looking after you and will not be responsible for anyone else at the same time.
If you plan a home birth you’re likely to be looked after by a small team of community midwives throughout your pregnancy. This means you’re more likely to get to know the midwives that are looking after you than if you’re booked in to a labour ward or birth centre.
- Read more about the benefits of knowing your midwife.
- Find out how to access private midwifery services if it’s important for you to know the midwife who is with you for labour and birth.
What if something goes wrong?
If you’re planning to give birth at home, you’ll be transferred to the hospital if the midwife is concerned for the health of you or your baby.
For example, if your baby’s heartbeat is dropping or if the placenta doesn’t come out after the birth you’ll be taken to hospital. During labour, if you want more pain relief than is available at home you’ll also have to go to the labour ward.
You’re more likely to be transferred if you’re pregnant with your first baby. Nearly half of all first-time mothers planning a home birth end up giving birth on the labour ward, while around one in ten women who have had a baby before are transferred.
- Find out more about transfer to hospital during home birth.
What kind of pain relief can I have at home?
Some methods of pain relief, such as an epidural, can only be given in the labour ward. So if you have a home birth you won’t be able to have an epidural.
But giving birth at home doesn’t mean you’re left without pain relief, there are other options available. Your midwife can bring gas and air and you can also hire or buy a TENS machine to use. If you want to use water in labour or have a water birth you can hire or buy a birth pool to set up at home.
How do I arrange a home birth?
If you want to have a home birth, you can contact the midwives at to your local NHS maternity unit or midwives working in health centres near where you live.
You can change your mind about where to have your baby, even if you’re quite far into your pregnancy. So if you’re already booked in to a birth centre or labour ward and feel you’d rather give birth at home, do speak to your midwife.
You also have the option of paying for a private midwife (such as an independent midwife) to attend your home birth.
- Search for local maternity units to find details on how to book a home birth in your area.
- Find out about private midwifery services.
What do I need to give birth at home?
Having a baby at home requires a bit of extra preparation compared to giving birth in the hospital. You’ll want to make sure you can protect your floors and furniture with sheets and towels, and it can also be good to have some refreshments ready for you, your birth partner and the midwife.
For a home water birth, you have to buy or rent a birth pool in advance and know how to set it up. Candles, music and massage oil are all things that can help you relax during labour and that you might want to have ready before the birth.
You might be thinking about if your upstairs floor is strong enough for a birth pool, if your older children can be at home during the birth and if you should let the neighbours know about your home birth in advance.
- Read our guide to planning a home birth to find answers to your key questions and use our home birth checklist to make sure you have everything you need at home.