If you're considering a home birth, you've probably thought; what is a home birth like and what are the pros and cons of giving birth at home, rather than in hospital? To help make the choice easier, we've put together a little guide to home births and how they're done.
Table of contents
Table of contents
Click on the points to read more about how a home birth works and what you need to consider before deciding whether you want to give birth at home.
- What is a home birth like?
- What to have ready for home birth?
- Home birth statistics - how many give birth at home
- Why home birth, and why not? (advantages and disadvantages)
- Risks of home birth
- Options for pain relief in home birth
- Home birth - without a birth vessel or with a birth vessel?
- Home birth story - A very personal experience of home birth
What is a home birth like?
A home birth takes place at home, of course. In practical terms, this means that the midwife comes to your home instead of you going to the hospital.
If you give birth on time (weeks 37 - 42) and your pregnancy has been without any particular complications or circumstances, you will usually be given the green light for a home birth. A few weeks before the birth, the midwife will come to your home to discuss the practical arrangements. For example, where you plan to give birth. Maybe it's the bed, maybe the sofa.
Before giving birth, you should consider whether you want to use a birthing tub. You can either hire one from your local authority or buy one online. Since home births are done without medical painkillers, many pregnant women want a birthing tub with warm water, as the heat has a soothing effect. Some midwives can give you acupuncture or massage as a painkiller.
When the birth starts
When the pregnant woman goes into labour, you call the midwife to arrange a time for her to come to your home. The midwife will have the things she needs to receive the baby, but you will need to provide plenty of clean towels, sheets and a birthing tub if necessary.
Same midwife throughout the birth
The midwife will stay with you throughout the birth, and for a few hours afterwards. This is one of the great advantages of home births. If you need stitches after the birth, the midwife will take care of that too. You will therefore need a good lamp for her to work by.
You are on home ground
Most people will feel safer in their own home than in a hospital. Often the father of the baby feels more secure in a home birth, as he is at home. In hospital, the father is sometimes "flailing" and doesn't know what to do. In a home birth, it is the midwife who visits. A home birth will often take place in calmer circumstances than a hospital birth, as the midwife does not have to attend to other mothers during the birth.
If you have older children, they can stay at home too, as long as there is an adult to look after them and include them in what is going on, as far as you want. It is recommended to have an extra carer present, in addition to the father. This is especially true if there are also older siblings to take care of.
In case of birth must be transferred to the hospital
About 16 % of births that start at home end up being transferred to hospital. This may be because the amniotic fluid is green, the mother's blood pressure is too high, or something else entirely. Even if you plan to give birth at home, have a packed bag ready. Then you won't have to pack it in an unexpected situation. Remember that the birth is being transferred for both your and your baby's safety, even though it may feel like a big disappointment.
What to have ready for home birth?
A home birth requires more preparation than a hospital birth. You need to make sure everything is ready and you have what you need during and after the birth. This includes everything from nappies for the baby and clean towels, as well as proper working conditions for the midwife. When you visit the midwife a few weeks before the birth, you will talk about how best to prepare for the home birth.
What you need for your home birth
- Plenty of clean towels, sheets and bed linen
- Clean home - tidy up your home in the days leading up to the birth so everything is ready and where it needs to be
- Prepare the feeding trolley if you need one
- Have your health insurance and water record ready as the midwife will ask for this
- Have some tasty snacks at home. Preferably some fruit, or something that is easy to eat and gives energy
- Diapers for baby (possibly from free baby starter packs - see them all here )
- Good working conditions for the midwife
- A good lamp the midwife can use if you need stitches after birth
- A packed bag in case it becomes necessary to transfer the birth to the hospital
- Have care for older siblings, even if the father is present during the birth
If you want to read more about what you need for the birth, see our article on what to pack in your birth bag here.
Home birth statistics - how many give birth at home
Home birth statistics show a clear trend: more and more women want to give birth at home.
- 2 % of all births in DK are home births
- About 250 women gave birth at home in 2016
- About 16 percent of women who give birth at home end up being transferred to hospital
- There are fewer interventions in home births
- More women give birth without painkillers when they give birth at home
- Studies from the Swedish Association of Midwives indicate that a home birth is as safe as a hospital birth
Right now, 2 % of all births in Denmark take place at home in familiar surroundings. This is the highest figure in the 19 years that statistics have been kept. The number of home births has doubled from 2011 to 2015, and the figure looks set to continue rising.
Statistically, a home birth is as safe and secure as a hospital birth. There are fewer procedures involved in home births than when a woman gives birth in hospital. Statistics show that around 16% of women who give birth at home end up being transferred to hospital
Home birth statistics also suggest that a home birth is as safe as a hospital birth, provided that both the woman and the baby are healthy and the pregnancy has proceeded normally.
Source: birth registry, Swedish Association of Midwives and National Board of Health
Why home birth? And why not? (advantages and disadvantages)
Before you make the final decision on whether to give birth at home, you should consider the pros and cons of doing so. A home birth is different from a hospital birth, and of course this has both advantages and disadvantages.
At home in a safe environment
Some believe that hospital births help to construct a view of birth as something disease-related, when in fact it is quite natural. For many, a birth in a home environment will feel more safe, calm and natural. Feeling safe brings some physical benefits, such as increased secretion of the hormone oxotosin, which is a persistent and makes labour go more smoothly. Home births are often shorter than hospital births and there are fewer interventions.
After the birth, you won't have to transfer to the busy maternity ward, where you might have to share a room with other new parents.
No possibility of medical pain relief
One of the major disadvantages of a home birth is the lack of medical pain relief. If the woman needs pain relief such as an epidural, nitrous oxide or other, it is necessary to move the birth to the hospital.
Advantages of home birth
Disadvantages of home birth
Risk of home birth
If you're expecting a healthy baby and have a normal pregnancy otherwise, a home birth is just as safe as one in hospital, according to the Midwives Association. If the midwife assesses the least risk, the birth mother is transferred to hospital. About 16 percent of women who give birth at home end up being transferred to the hospital.
The biggest risk of home birth is the possibility that things do not go as planned and there is no equipment to give mother or baby the help they need. This could include a lack of oxygen during birth, which could cause complications for the baby later in life.
Lillian Bondo, president of the Danish Midwives Association, has told Politiken that Danish midwives carefully assess whether each pregnant woman can give birth at home. If there are complications in the pregnancy or other conditions that pose a risk, the woman will be advised not to give birth at home.
It should also be mentioned here that there are fewer interventions in home births than in hospital births. Home birth statistics suggest that a home birth is as safe as a hospital birth, provided that both the woman and the baby are healthy and the pregnancy has proceeded normally.
Source: Jordemoderforeningen and Politiken
Home birth pain relief
For a home birth, it is not possible to get medical pain relief. Medical pain relief includes nitrous oxide and epidural blockade.
On the other hand, there are other options for pain relief. For example, some midwives may provide acupuncture. Otherwise, massage can provide pain relief. Getting into a birthing tub with hot water also helps with pain. About half of home births take place in warm water.
Natural pain relief
Women who give birth at home often feel more secure and comfortable during labour. This increases the production of the hormone oxotosin, which makes labour go faster. Feeling safe also reduces the body's release of stress hormones, which inhibit contractions, making labour longer and increasing the risk of complications.
The hormone oxytocin also acts as a painkiller. It is secreted during birth, and especially when touched. In a home birth, there is plenty of opportunity for the father to give the mother massage and other things. The touch will increase the release of the hormone that reduces pain.
Statistically, home births are both shorter and there are fewer complications.
Home birth with or without birth vessel?
About half of all home births in the UK are in a birthing tank. The warm water has a soothing effect, and being in the water relieves the heavy body. You can either rent a birthing tub or buy one. If you choose to buy it, you can sell it afterwards. In Region Zealand they have a home birth scheme through which you can rent a birthing tub. Otherwise, it is possible to do on various sites on the web.
Inflatable or with hard edges?
You can choose from two types of birthing trolleys for your home birth. An inflatable has soft edges that are comfortable to lean on. One with hard edges you can grab and lean against.
When you give birth in a birthing tub, you obviously need the space for it, and you also need space around it for the midwife and father to support and help.
Michelle, 36, gave birth to her second daughter at home. Although the circumstances of the birth were not rosy, Michelle is happy with her experience and would like to share her experience of home birth.
"Every time I talk to a pregnant woman, I recommend giving birth at home, because you are HOME 🙂
- Michelle, who gave birth to her daughter at home on 18/1 - 17
Michelle's personal experience with home birth
At 6:30 on 18/1-2017, the sign came on that now it was happening, I was a little worried, for the first time I gave birth, the sign did not come in awake state. So I contacted the father/lover and wrote 'Now it's about to happen, with a picture of a bloody toilet paper. But yes unfortunately he didn't take it seriously, so it was 5 hours before I saw him at my place. Unfortunately we had time to get on bad terms, so he went home again after 3 hours.
In the meantime, I tried to tell him to come to my house. I talked to a close friend who said I was getting ready to give birth after we talked the first time. But after the argument with the boyfriend, my big 6 year old daughter and I went to my parents' house and stayed there for an hour and a half when my mom sent us home because she was well aware that labor was about to start.
Then we came home and I cooked and I talked to my little sister on the phone while I made some hand sandwiches for my big girl. But the contractions got stronger and stronger where I had to tell my little sister that I couldn't talk anymore and to call the midwife at 7:45pm. After I called the midwife, I called for a friend to come and pick up my big girl, agreeing with the midwife that she shouldn't be home since I didn't have a 3rd person with me for the birth to keep an eye on her. 1 hour later the midwife comes and she has her things with her and she is dragging and dragging. In between I called my friend and asked her if she wanted to come to the birth and she did.
My mother had indirectly said that she wanted to go to the birth too on the phone, because I called and informed her what the plan was. Shortly after the midwife arrived, my friend and my mother arrived.
"Being able to use my own window squeeze as support during the contractions was super nice. The hours passed and the contractions were excruciating at several points, but I persevered and I was HOME"
While the midwife was getting ready the contractions just kept getting stronger, the midwife started preparing and turning my bed into a birthing bed, and boy are those midwives creative, I was pretty impressed as the contractions came and went. Being able to use my own window sill for support during the contractions was super nice. The hours passed and the contractions were excruciating at several points but I persevered and I was HOME, during the process there is laughing and crying on my part.
I am still scarred by the quarrel with the boyfriend/father of Aviaja Andrea, which also affects the birth. And But I have my friend and my mom by my side and they are both so super good, and my mom texts with my dad constantly, when it gets to 3 my friend has to go (she needs to go home and get some sleep before she has to put her son in a bra (her boyfriend is home with the son but has to leave early for work) and they help the midwife. After my friend leaves, my dad calls my mom to see how things are going, then I tell my mom 'Mom, it's dad calling, please pick up' while she's talking to my dad, it feels like she's gone for hours, but she only talks to him for a few minutes.
"When the water finally breaks, then the feeling of being able to feel Aviaja Andrea moving out, I tell my mum and the midwife how far Aviaja Andrea is, (then it's worth the pain), when Aviaja Andrea has come up on my chest, then I'm just sold"
When it's 5 o'clock, the midwife decides to puncture the hole so that my water breaks (I feel my water break all the time, but only blood comes out). I am in pain, but luckily I survive the pain (it's my second birth without any painkillers) But when my water finally breaks, then the feeling of Aviaja Andrea moving out, I tell my mum and the midwife how far Aviaja Andrea is, (then it's worth the pain), when Aviaja Andrea has come up on my chest, I am just sold
I remember my mum saying 'she looks just like Linnea (my big daughter) and I think 'shut up' (laughs) after an hour and a patronising message from my boyfriend/dad, I'm up and showering in my own home
Home birth was the right decision
"It was great to be at home and during the whole birth all 4 rooms were used, there was room to be in pain and I was quite happy to be able to tell my big daughter where I was staying"
It was great to be at home and during the whole birth all 4 rooms were used, there was room to be in pain and you (I did at least) become quite happy and could tell my big daughter where I stayed 🙂 A 15 min. after Aviaja Andrea came out, my friend wrote to me and asked what the status was, there I could send her a picture of Aviaja Andrea, and tell her that Linnea had just become a big sister to a little girl, so Linnea was pope proud and could go to school and tell that she had become a big sister, right when she got up 🙂 <3
Yes, during the birth and after, I missed the boyfriend/father of Aviaja Andrea, but I just had to focus on Aviaja Andrea and myself, because it was not a pleasant quarrel. The argument was so heated that I left him in the dark until the next day. The midwife said during the birth that it was the right choice I made not to tell the boyfriend/dad that I was in labor.
Would recommend home birth
"To this day I am still impressed by how creative the midwife was, she turned my duvet into a ball for me to use during labour"
Despite the sad part with the father, it was worth the experience and I would do it again if I had more children. Every time I talk to a pregnant woman, I recommend giving birth at home because you are HOME 🙂
To this day I am still impressed with how creative the midwife was, she turned my duvet into a ball that I could use during labour with a black sack etc 🙂