As we all await the safe arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Sussesx aka Harry and Meghan first baby – which could be any day if reports are correct. The gossip has already started to circulate about the how, where and when Meghan will give birth. One such (unconfirmed) theory is that the couple are planning a natural home birth, others has said a water birth, researching pain relief-free options and has even been practising hypnobirthing.
Either way, if Meghan does have a home birth she will would not be the first royal to do so. Queen Elizabeth II gave birth to all four of her children, including Meghan’s father-in-law, Prince Charles, at home. All of Queen Elizabeth’s deliveries took place at Buckingham Palace and Clarence House. What has been revealed though (from Buckingham Palace) is that only that the birth will be private, with an announcement coming about the birth only after Harry and Meghan have celebrated “privately as a new family.” Unlike Prince William and Duchess Kate who’s 3 children – and heirs to the throne – deliveries took place at the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital, London followed by the much shared ‘welcome to the world’ photographs on the Lindo steps.
If you too are considering your delivery and labour options, it’s important to make an informed choice around the place of birth and choose the option which is right for you. By researching your possibilities and having an open and honest conversation with your health care provider, they will be able to advise you on the best choice for your labour. For some, a home birth might be the most suitable choice but there are some key factors to consider.
We spoke to Liz Halliday, Deputy Head of Midwifery at Private Midwives, the leading provider of private midwifery services, and she gave us 10 key things to consider before going ahead with a home birth:
- Your care provider. Consider your options when choosing a provider. Will you meet one midwife who will be on call for your birth or are you with a team of midwives and could potentially meet someone in labour that you’ve never met before? What are their policies and philosophy of care? Are you satisfied that you understand how your care in labour will take place and the equipment that will be available? Ask lots of questions and make sure you’re happy with the answers.
- Your home. Although you don’t require a lot of space for a home birth, you will likely want some privacy – an available toilet, running water and some space for your midwife’s equipment. You should also consider whether there is good access for an ambulance in case of complications and be aware of the transfer time to hospital.
- Your friends and family. Should you tell them you’re planning a home birth or not? Only you will know the answer. Some people are surrounded by positivity and support in pregnancy, other people might find they receive a negative response to their plans. I advise telling people of your plans if you’re confident they will be supportive of your choices.
- Your children. Should you have your children present for your birth or not? Again, you know them best and can judge how they might react. In my experience, children who have been prepared to attend a home birth have one of two reactions, they are either fascinated, excited and really supportive, or totally disinterested! It’s key to remember that birth is a normal part of life. However, it is worth considering how you would feel about having your children there – if you might find it distracting it may be better to consider an alternative arrangement.
- Coping strategies. Labour sensations can be intense and often painful. At home you have lots of options available to you, such as moving around, finding a comfortable spot, using the shower, bath or a birth pool, massage, hypnotherapy or Entonox gas. Talk to your midwife about what might work for you and have a plan. Remember, if you do need more pain relief you can always transfer into hospital.
- Reasons you might transfer in. It’s always good to have a plan B. Starting labour at home doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind and it’s important to be aware that something might happen that means transfer is the safest option. Your midwives will advise you throughout labour but it’s a good idea to talk to them about reasons for transfer and what a transfer might be like for you beforehand.
- What equipment you might need. You midwife will provide all of the clinical equipment for birth, but she might ask you to gather a few things. Plastic sheeting, absorbable maternity sheets, maternity pads and nappies are essential, but there may be some other things that she might recommend. Ask your midwife for a list and discuss it with them so you can decide what to get and how best to store it.
- When to call your midwife. Talk to your midwife about the signs of labour and when they would require you to call. This might be different to a previous birth or a friend’s birth depending on your history, where you live and your preferences. It’s important to remember a text or message doesn’t always come through so make sure to call your midwife so you know they’re on the way.
- Your birth preferences. Yes, even at home a plan or list of preferences is a good idea. It gives you the opportunity to inform yourself about common interventions and to discuss your options with your midwife. If you do transfer into hospital, often some (if not all) of your preferences can come with you. Think about what is really important to you and talk to your midwife about how she can support you.
- Yourself. After your baby is born, it’s important to remember to rest and take care of yourself. Just because you’re at home, it doesn’t mean that you should be up and about. Try to organise some nutritious meals ahead of time and freeze them. If you have supportive friends and family, ask them if they can help out for a few days, maybe bring in a meal or do some light housework for you. Sometimes a friend offering to take older children out for a few hours is the best gift for you and your new baby. Most importantly, rest. Enjoy some skin to skin time with your baby as you get to know each other. My advice? Bed for 3 days, pyjamas for the rest of week. Take your time, your body has achieved something sensational no matter how your baby was born, so give it a chance to recuperate.