Home birth: How to prepare for giving birth at home

Home birth (also known as unassisted birth) is the option of choice for around 2% of first time mums in the UK. It allows you to welcome your new baby privately in comfortable and familiar surroundings. Of course, this requires preparation without the presence of a team of nurses and doctors, so here’s our guide to planning a safe and stress-free home birth.

Is home birth right for me?

It might sound obvious, but before you start planning it’s wise to ask yourself this question for a few reasons. If you are in good health and expecting a straightforward pregnancy, home birth shouldn’t be a problem. If you have a medical condition or experienced complications with a previous birth, speak to your GP as a hospital birth will likely be advised. Secondly, your maternity unit of choice and the location of your home could play a part in the level of support, equipment and resources available to you, so this should be considered too before making plans.

Choosing a midwife

Your two main options when choosing a midwife are a community midwife or an independent midwife. The choice is up to you, but may depend on midwife numbers in your area.

Community midwife

They work within teams for an NHS hospital or health centre and are assigned into the community, to provide 24 hour prenatal and postnatal care.

Independent midwife

They are self-employed midwives who have chosen to work outside of the NHS/public sector. They can provide more individualised prenatal and postnatal care, whilst still being closely regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Typically, independent midwives charge between £2,000 – £5,000 to attend a home birth.

To help you make the right decision when choosing a midwife, community-based or independent, it’s worth having an initial consultation to ask questions such as:

  • How does their practice work?
  • What type of certification does the midwife have?
  • What is the midwife’s general approach to prenatal care and delivery?
  • How many midwife appointments will I have pre and post-birth?
  • How are emergencies and after-hour calls handled?
  • Is the midwife affiliated with a medical practice, hospital, or birthing centre?
  • How does the midwife manage pain during delivery?
  • Does the midwife consult with an OB (obstetrician)?
  • Will another midwife and/or a student midwife attend my delivery?

To help you make the right decision when choosing a midwife, community-based or independent, it’s worth having an
initial consultation to ask questions such as:

How does their practice work?

What type of certification does the midwife have?

What is the midwife’s general approach to prenatal care and delivery?

How many midwife appointments will I have pre and post-birth?

How are emergencies and after-hour calls handled?

Is the midwife affiliated with a medical practice, hospital, or birthing centre?

How does the midwife manage pain during delivery?

Does the midwife consult with an OB (obstetrician)?

Will another midwife and/or a student midwife attend my delivery?

The midwives home birth kit

Your midwife should bring a kit to your home as you reach the end of your pregnancy. This contains:

  • Absorbent pads
  • Medical equipment
  • Pain relief

Of course, the contents of the kit depends on your chosen delivery method. If you’re opting for a water birth, some midwives can even bring a birth pool with them (although you should clarify this well in advance).

Your home birth supplies

Alongside your midwife’s kit, you should prepare your own home birth supplies in advance of your due date. The following items will give you an idea of what to pack for your comfort and convenience on the big day:

  • Your maternity notes and birth plan
  • Baby blankets and towels
  • TENS machine
  • Desk light or head torch for your midwife
  • Phone numbers of your midwifery team
  • A bucket in case you are sick (don’t worry, this is quite common)
  • Snacks and drinks
  • Music or podcasts
  • Flannels
  • Hair ties
  • Maternity pads
  • Birth ball
  • Candles
  • Anything else you may want for comfort and relaxation

Click here for a full list of maternity bag packing ideas.

Delivery types: natural, medicated or water birth?

There are three main birth methods to choose from if you’re giving birth at home. Here’s a bit of background on each to give you confidence in your decision.

Natural birth

An unrushed, supported process with minimal interference and less invasive monitoring. It’s wise to attend a birth class in advance if you’re planning a natural birth, as they can advise you on relaxation and breathing techniques, plus the stages of labour. Typical natural birth teaching methods include hypnobirthing.

Medicated birth

This is the most common childbirth method today. While most medicated births are in hospital, you can still take advantage of pain relief options at home with the help of your midwife. These include use of a TENS machine and gas and air.

Water birth

A process where the mother goes through childbirth in a shallow pool of warm water. It is said to be a more relaxing and less painful experience than natural birth, and makes it easier for the mother to move between different birth positions. In water births, the baby can be delivered safely under or out of water.

Protecting your baby’s health at birth

An increasing number of parents are opting for cord blood banking to protect the future health of their child. Cord blood is rich in stem cells which can treat conditions such as Anaemia, Leukaemia and a range of inherited disorders. Your child’s sample is a 100% DNA match to them and, if stored with a private bank, can be frozen for decades should they ever need it for a treatment.

Collecting cord blood is possible for all types of birth, whether you are planning a home birth, water birth or even delayed cord clamping. With Future Health, you will have a private phlebotomist assigned to you at the time of booking to make the process as smooth as possible.

Remember, the information on this page is for guidance only. If you are considering a home birth, please discuss options with your GP first.