Home birth: guide to giving birth at home
Why you may want to give birth at home
- You'd like to avoid using medical pain relief, eg an epidural.
- Being able to use a birth pool for pain relief or a water birth is really important to you.
- Giving birth in a familiar and private environment appeals to you.
- You want to have more birthing partners than are allowed at the hospital or birth centre.
Why giving birth at home might not be right for you
- You'll need to be transferred to hospital if there are complications.
- If you’re giving birth for the first time, statistically, home births are slightly less safe for your baby than a labour ward or birth centre.
- If you're at increased risk of complications, you may be advised to give birth on the labour ward.
- Not all areas have home birth teams, so arranging one may be trickier than planning a hospital birth.
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.
Your midwife can bring gas and air when you go into labour, 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.
Becca, Katie and Emily talk about why they chose to give birth at home and share their experiences in the video below.
Will I get to know my midwives before the birth?
Once you’ve booked to have a home birth with the NHS, you’re likely to have your antenatal appointments with 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.
Who will look after me during labour?
When you’re in labour one of the midwives in the community team 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.
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. 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. It can also be good to have some refreshments ready for you, your birth partner and the midwife.
Thinking about whether your upstairs floor is strong enough for a birth pool, if your older children can be at home during the birth or if you should let the neighbours know about your home birth in advance? Use our and read through our guide to to make sure you have everything you need at home.
What happens if I need to go to the hospital?
If you’re planning to give birth at home, you’ll be transferred to the nearest hospital if the midwife is concerned for the health of you or your baby at any stage during or after the birth.
If you decide that you want more pain relief than is available at home, for example an epidural, 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 are transferred, while around one in ten women who have had a baby before are transferred.
What happens after I give birth?
If you give birth to your baby at home, the midwives will make sure you and your new baby have everything you need and feeding gets off to a good start, as well as helping your partner to clean up any mess and empty the birth pool if you had a home water birth.
When the midwives leave a couple of hours after the birth, they’ll make sure you have emergency contact details for if you need any assistance, and will also let you know when they'll be back for a check-up the next day.
If you need to go to hospital after the birth, for example if you need to have more extensive stitching or your baby needs help, the midwives will arrange for you to be transferred to a hospital in an ambulance.
You may be able to return home again the same day, but you might also be admitted to the postnatal ward if you or your baby need ongoing care or observation.
Is it safe for me to give birth at home?
Home births are generally safe but every pregnancy and woman is different.
Statistically, 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. Since it carries no additional risks for the baby and also means that you’re less likely to need interventions (like an episiotomy or c-section), a home birth could be an especially good option for you.
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 plan to give birth in a birth centre or labour ward. But it’s worth noting that many community midwives are still supportive of women having their first baby at home.
There are few studies into how safe home births are for women who are at increased risk of complications during labour. For this reason, your midwife will probably recommend that you plan to give birth in the labour ward if you have any risk factors as there will be medical staff and equipment on hand if you or the baby should need it.
However, because the conditions and circumstances can vary so much between different women, it’s always worth discussing your options with your midwife, GP or obstetrician if you feel that a home birth might be right for you.
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.