I very am happy to be able to offer a private homebirth service in Sussex and Surrey as part of a wide range of services. The decision about place of birth, and who you choose to care for you is really important. This post brings together things my clients have told me are useful as they prepare for a homebirth.
In reality there is not very much you need to buy as you prepare for a homebirth. It is more about gathering things so that you know where they are when the action starts!
Boiling water and towels are the things that films have told us are needed! Assuming you have running water and a kettle, we’ll be fine. No pans of boiling water required (but tea bags are always a good plan!). Make a big stack of towels, perhaps buying some extra ones from charity shops that you don’t mind throwing away afterwards. If you are planning to use a birthing pool or may choose to use your bath or shower intermittently during labour you will need lots! You may want to keep one or two separate, to be used for your baby.
When you start to prepare for a homebirth, think about where you may want to be during labour and birth – perhaps in your bedroom, but it can be wherever you feel safe and comfortable. My only request is that there is space for me to move around without stepping over you, so the understairs cupboard may not be the ideal location. I shared a beautiful birth with one family in their conservatory , with a vaulted ceiling lit only by fairy lights. A Christmas baby, born in front of a tree decorated by the baby’s big brother and sister, with candles flickering is another beautiful memory. However, in the kitchen on a vinyl floor is practical, and on the stairs has happened! Your home, your rules. I need a little patch of light to be able to write my notes, but in general a dark environment works well. You may want to check whether neighbours or passers by can see in and consider additional window coverings.
Think about whether you might want music or an affirmation tape to be played. You could spend time while waiting for baby making a playlist. How will you play it? Do you want an extra speaker somewhere? If you are using a birthing pool, set it up and have a practice run – including checking that the hose connection fits your tap and work out how you are going to empty it. The total weight of a filled pool and you (any possibly your partner too) means that in most cases the ground floor is safest and most appropriate. If you are in an upstairs flat you will need to check very carefully – and think about insurance issues. Pools can spring a leak and in the rare event of an emergency occurring we are trained simply to tip the pool over if necessary.
A waterproof layer is useful to cover carpets, your sofa or the bed. Heavy plastic decorators sheets are great. Shower curtains are often suggested, but not all are actually waterproof! It is a good idea to have a waterproof cover on your mattress as birth approaches, in case your waters break. Absorbent pads (sold as incontinence pads or puppy pads) are very useful after the birth when blood flow is heavy. Big maternity pads are needed in the first few days or disposable incontinence pants can be easy and feel secure.
What do you feel might be helpful for you? A TENS machine, hot water bottle, massage oils, birth ball, continual chat from the television, loud rock music? Your home, your rules.
Labour is hard work, you will get hot but can then feel chilly when it is over. A fan and a small portable heater are useful. You will want blankets for you and baby after the birth, as well as lots of pillows or cushions to get comfy. Think about what you might want to eat and drink. You are unlikely to want substantial food, but do need to keep your energy levels topped up. High energy snacks that are quick and easy are great. Bananas, energy drinks, peanut butter, protein balls, sweets, little sandwiches, icepops, samosas, jelly and milkshakes seem to be the most commonly used. A “sports-top” drink bottle and some straws give you the ability to drink in various positions. Flannels to wipe your face and lip balm are practical and can make you feel so much more comfortable. You can obviously wear (or not) what you like – your home, your rules.
Labour and birth can be unpredictable and sometimes it can be sensible to transfer into hospital. Think about this as you prepare for homebirth. I would always suggest that you have a bag of essentials packed and ready from around 30 weeks. A basic overnight bag with baby basics and practical things such as a phone charger, cash for taxi, car parking or vending machines, a book and some snacks can be really valuable and save stress at a challenging time. I suggest that this is kept in a place that your partner knows and that you show me. Keep your pregnancy notes with it when you are at home. At the top of the bag, I suggest you have a plastic bag or packing cube which has in it a couple of nappies, basic clothing and hat for baby. If you need to transfer to hospital after birth it is really important that baby does not get cold.
Have a spare set of bed linen ready. I remember how wonderful it was after my daughters birth. I went into the bath whilst her daddy spent time skin to skin with her. He and I sipped champagne. I returned to my bedroom to find that my wonderful midwife had changed the sheets, popped them in the wash and remade the bed. She then made us breakfast. I love doing that for my clients.
If you have other children, make a plan for every permutation of events you can think of. If they are asleep, if they are awake, if they are at school or nursery and labour starts suddenly. Emergency childcare is important to have planned, including being clear whether you could call on that help in the middle of the night. If your child/children have never spent time apart from you I strongly advise that you make this experience part of the process of preparing for a homebirth. I have no problem with children sharing the birth experience provided that they have been suitably prepared and you have a “plan b” in case they choose not to stay close or it no longer feels right for you.
Have food supplies ready (or on-line orders in place) for the early days. Easy meals and snacks mean that you can focus on your baby. You may feel sore after birth. Afterpains are particularly strong if you have already had a couple of babies. If you are comfortable using medicines occasionally, paracetamol and ibuprofen are a great combo, so make sure you have them in the house. If you are not comfortable taking any drugs, are there alternatives you might choose to use?
If you are interested in having a home birth in Surrey or Sussex please contact me for an initial discussion. In some areas the NHS can offer an appropriate homebirth service and I am pleased to provide information about both private home birth services and about accessing NHS services. As a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic, sadly in many areas the NHS suspended homebirth services, but these are gradually restarting. I am happy to share information and contacts and to help you decide if a homebirth is right for you and how to prepare for a homebirth.