Planning a Successful Home Birthby Elizabeth MacDonald
Birthing at home is a gentle, peaceful way to bring your child earthside. There is a calmness about being in your place of comfort. I couldn’t imagine birthing anywhere else. After experiencing 4 homebirths - one of which was too fast to have help, I figured, why save all the information for myself when I can share it with you! Having a home birth removes the stress of traveling while in labor, allows you to relax in your place of comfort, and makes life easier for you all around. Obviously home birthing is not for high risk moms, and you should have a trusting birth team in place. A recent study confirms that among low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies. If the thought has even crossed your mind over birthing at home, it is worth it to read on.
Planning Your Home Birth:The first step in a successful home birth is having both you and your partner on board. This is tricky for most spouses, as they are scared of what can go wrong. My husband was no different with our first home birth. It took sitting down with the midwife and asking a laundry list of questions before his mind was put to ease. I truly encourage your spouse to do the same. Interview, meet with, and fall in love with a midwife. Don’t be afraid to shop around if you don’t feel super connected to your first option. Although, some areas have few home birthing midwives. In this case, look at local birth centers too – you may feel a different connection there! This is your birth, make sure you have a team that you trust and love.
Questions to ask your potential midwife:
About her background:
- How many births have you attended as a primary attendant?
- How much total experience do you have in birth work, and in what roles?
- Are you licensed to practice in this state? If not, why not? How does your licensing status impact your practice and what happens in the event of transfer?
- Are you certified in neonatal resuscitation? What other certifications do you hold?
- To what professional organizations do you belong?
- Do you carry personal malpractice coverage for your home birth practice?
About her births:
- What would risk me out of a home birth?
- What is your transfer rate?
- Under what circumstances would you transfer to the hospital?
- What is your transfer plan?
- With what hospital based providers do you have a collaborative relationship with to facilitate transfer of care if that is necessary?
- How does my care change if we discover that my baby is breech at term? What is the local standard of care for breech birth?
- What is your c-section rate?
- Have you experienced any poor outcomes as a home birth provider? If so, please explain.
- How many births do you commit to attending per month?
- Have you missed a birth? Why?
- What is your back up plan in place if you are unable to attend a birth?
- How far overdue can I go and still birth at home?
- What testing do you require? Can I opt out of any of it?
- Do you have any previous clients we can speak with?
- How much time do you normally spend with a family for a birth? In the immediate postpartum period?
- Who attends the birth with you?
- Do you carry anti-hemorrhage drugs with you to births? Which ones do you bring? How do you handle a hemorrhage?
- Are you NRP certified? Have you resuscitated an infant before?
- Do you carry oxygen?
- Have you ever lost a baby or a mother? If so, what were the circumstances?
- What tools do you use and how often do you monitor baby?
- What are your protocols for Group B Strep?
- Do you supply a birth tub?
- What medical tools do you bring with you to the birth?
- What supplies do I need to provide?
- Do you take insurance?
- What is your personal philosophy on birth?
Hold a Blessing Way:
Instead of a baby shower, ask for a Blessing Way. I have been blessed with this celebration and I cannot explain how moving it was! There are several ways you can hold this event – as “hippie” and “crunchy” as you’d like. We did henna on my belly, made a “Labor of Love” necklace from beads every brought, created a quilt for the baby with fabric pieces, and designed a “Flag of Strength” with fabric that the guests wrote inspirational messages on. These pieces were then hung for the birth and helped remind me how supported and loved I was – and am!
Shop For Birth:Your midwife will give you a list of supplies (towels, bowls, oils, blankets, etc) to have on hand. Don’t go out of your way to purchase these items – anything at home will do. But there is still plenty that you can buy!
- Absolutely anything that you feel will help you stay relaxed.
- Finger Foods: cooking may not be on your birth list, so little foods you can grab and munch are perfect. Fruits, crackers, nuts, honey straws, etc.
- Electrolyte Drinks: coconut water, Gatorade, smart water
- Essential Oils: They can be used for nausea and other birth pains
- Yoga Ball
- Tarps for under the birth tub
- Waterproof mattress cover
- Waterproof pads (Typically called “Puppy Pads”) to absorb any blood or body fluids on the ground/bed.
- Music/sound machine
- Massage Oil
- Perri Bottle – Fill with warm water and squirt as you urinate after birth.
- Natural Laxative – Your first bowel movement will be hard, help yourself out.
- Movies, books, knitting, anything that will keep you in bed after the birth.
- An Herbal Tea Bath: Use after birth, with or without baby. It will promote healing.
- A great pajama shirt, preferably button-down for easy breastfeeding
- LOTS of full-back underwear – cuteness factor does not matter
Decorate for Birth:
- Place encouraging words and inspirational affirmations around the room you plan to birth in.
- Pictures are also wonderful inspiration to focus on.
- Have a dark, cool room prepared to labor in.
- If you desire candle light, place Unscented candles around sparingly (don’t overwhelm the space).
- Have a playlist of music prepared.
- Set up a birth tub, even if it costs extra to rent/buy.
- You can use holiday lights strung sparingly to light the space (makes for neat pictures).
Home Birth Myths:Home birth is dangerous: Statistics show that a low-risk, healthy pregnancy has a higher success rate of no medical interventions if labor takes place at home. Home Birth is a HUGE mess: Seriously, the midwives and birth team are incredible at their job. My house is cleaner after a birth than it is prior to it. If something goes wrong, everyone is screwed: Wrong. There is an emergency plan ready to be put in place just as if you were at a birth center or hospital.
Recommendations from Home Birth Mamas:
- Don’t wait until your second birth to have a home birth.
- Have plenty of food on hand.
- Use your birth/yoga ball to sit, hug, rock, and relax through each contraction.
- Water is your friend. Get in the tub.
- Take prenatal yoga, it will help prepare your mind for labor.
- Stay upright for as long as possible, working with gravity.
- Hire a birth photographer.
Katie’s Second Home Birth:When our son was nearly three years old, I knew it was time to try for our second child, as I didn’t want them to be too far apart in age. That was a big choice for me and I had a very teary conversation with my husband because I was afraid to go through birth again. I was also quite sick the first time around and was worried how I would care for our son through the pregnancy. Nevertheless, we decided to try and I was soon pregnant with our second child. This time, I wanted to be completely prepared. I found a new midwife, and upon asking her advice as to how I should prepare, she mentioned pre-natal yoga, which turned out to be the best suggestion. I took care of myself during this pregnancy, mind, body and spirit. I made sure to get enough sleep at night, and my son and I took a two-hour nap every day together. I walked and did yoga daily. I read up on ways to make labor a more calming, gentle experience. I felt so good (after the first trimester) and I had that pregnancy glow. If anyone had told me after having my son that the experience could be like this, and labor so different than that first time, I wouldn't have believed them. The labor was textbook and wonderful. My midwife left me be, and I labored on the birth ball as long as I could, using the yoga and body tension releasing methods I had learned. When it became intense, I went into the tub. I did not even push with her (I had pushed for two hours with my son). My water broke on its own in the birth pool, and then her head came out. I reached down and touched it (so sweet and small!). During the next contraction the rest of her came out and my husband placed her on my belly. We sat in the water for I don't know how long. Our son was a part of it, even cutting her cord (long after the placenta had also delivered and stopped pulsated). It was the most beautiful experience of my life. It really felt divine. I am so thankful for my both of my birthing experiences. What I learned, and would offer advice to expecting mothers planning a home birth would be the following: Make sure you find a midwife that you really mesh well with. This will be one of the most intimate relationships of your life, so make sure you feel completely comfortable with them. Take care of yourself during the pregnancy. Get plenty of rest, and eat healthy, fresh foods. Carry raw nuts with you everywhere you go. Drink water. Stay away from caffeine. Sleep as much as you can. Concentrate on your baby. Really get to know your baby before s/he is born and enjoy the experience. Do yoga (and if you live in South Florida, go to Jiwan Kaur, she is the best!) Get in touch with your spiritual self. For me, it was reading the Bible regularly and lots of prayer. Take long walks and make sure to stay active. During labor, stay as upright and active as possible, for as long as possible. You definitely can prepare for labor! Think of it as preparing for a marathon. You're not just going to show up on the day to run the marathon without conditioning your body and mind first. Prepare yourself the best you can, and then just enjoy the ride...
Clare’s Home Birth: