While we doubt the Duchess of Cambridge will be preparing Kensington Palace for a home birth, one person who did is Sam Faiers, the star of ITVBe’s The Mummy Diaries.
She has shared on her Instagram page that she gave birth to her daughter Rosie in a pool at home, and called the experience “amazing".
Her experience will be shown on Wednesday night’s show, along with the moment her boyfriend Paul and son baby Paul meet the new addition to the family.
So what is the appeal of a home birth? And what are the benefits and the risks? We asked Val Wilcox, the Practice Manager at childbirth charity NCT.
Why choose a home birth?
“There are a whole host of reasons why expectant mums may plan a home birth,” says Val.
“It could be because they have previously had a positive birth experience and now feel confident about having a home birth. It could also be because they have had a previous negative birth experience in hospital and don’t want a repeat of it. They may want to feel more in control of their birth experience or want privacy.”
What happens during a home birth?
Val explains that if you do decide to have a home birth, a midwife will normally bring a home birth kit to your home towards the end of your pregnancy.
“Ask her what is provided and if there is anything else you should have ready. Some midwives suggest preparing a birth box with items such as protective coverings for floors and large towels to keep the baby warm.”
She also suggests packing an emergency bag just in case you have to transfer to hospital, with a change of clothes for you and the baby plus nappies.
Val continues: “One perception about a home birth is that it is messy but in reality there is little mess and the protective coverings will protect surfaces and furniture around you. Afterwards the midwife will clear up and remove the placenta and umbilical cord.
“Many people who choose to have a home birth also hire a birth pool. It helps if you have a birth partner who takes responsibility for assembling the pool and maintaining the temperature you prefer.
“You can choose who is with you if you give birth a home. You may want more than one birth partner, your children or a doula present as well as a midwife. Some expectant mums choose to pay for a private midwife which gives them a better chance of receiving continuous one-to-one care.”
Arranging to use a birth pool at home
If you are planning to have your baby at home, Val suggests you ask for a midwife with water birth experience.
She also says you should think about the following considerations:
• Is your room big enough? Birthing pools vary in size but are generally about 5 by 4 feet, although smaller ones are available.
• Is there room for the midwife to sit beside the pool and enough floor space in case you decide to leave the pool at any time?
• Is the floor strong enough to hold a large pool full of water? Talk with the pool company about the weight of their different pools when full and which one would be most suitable for your home.
• Is there a convenient supply of water? How long will it take to fill the pool?
• How will you empty the pool? Where is the nearest drain?
• Do you have a partner or friend who can set up the birthing pool and keep the water warm for you?
• Is your hot-water system efficient enough to heat all that water? Or would it be better to hire a pool with its own thermostatically controlled heating system?
You can even hire a birthing pool, which come in all shapes and sizes – some are inflatable, some are more permanent, some have in-built heaters while others have to be filled with water from your own hot water system.
Val estimates the cost of hiring one varies between £100-£400, depending on the type of pool and length of hire, and pools are hired as ‘packaged’ to suit individual needs.
What happens if there are complications?
“Midwives are trained and equipped to deal with most problems during a home birth. There is some equipment the midwife is unable to use when you have your baby at home, for example an epidural is not available, nor are ventilators,” explains Val.
Complications could include:
• Blood loss after the birth (postpartum hemorrhage)
• Midwives at home births carry the same drugs which are used to expel the placenta and contract the uterus as would be used in hospital. If these do not control the bleeding, the midwife would call an ambulance to transfer you to hospital, and undertake other emergency measures in the meantime, such as giving intravenous fluids.
• Baby slow to breathe
• Your midwife will have equipment to manually resuscitate a baby that is slow to breathe after a spontaneous vaginal birth. They would call an ambulance if further medical help was needed.
• Lack of progress in second stage of labour
• Pregnant mums who need a caesarean after planning a home birth usually do so after lack of progress in labour, when neither mother nor baby are in immediate danger. If the baby was showing signs of real distress, the midwife would call an ambulance immediately and notify the hospital.
When is a home birth not advised?
While many women can benefit from a home birth, Val says that for some, it isn’t advised. “A safe home birth is not possible if you have a full placenta praevia (low lying placenta covering the cervix), or if your baby is in a transverse lie (sideways across the womb) because these births require a caesarean section. Many expectant mums also choose to have their baby in a hospital if they have severe health problems, or if their baby is likely to need medical attention immediately after they are born (for example if the baby is premature).
“If your midwife does not consider you a good candidate for having your child at home, ask her to go through the reasons with you to help you weigh up the pros and cons for yourself.”
If you have any difficulties arranging a home water birth you could contact NCT, the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) or an independent midwife.