bristol • north somerset • south gloucestershire

Homebirth

It can be very reassuring to be in your own environment during labour and research has shown that many women find they need less pain relief as a result. A study of 65,000 births showed that for women at low risk of complications and who have had a baby before, giving birth at home is as safe for the baby as giving birth in a hospital or midwife-led unit, and increases the chance of having a normal birth. For first time mothers there is a slightly increased risk of some adverse outcomes for the baby (9.3 per 1000 planned home births compared with 5.3 per 1000 births for births planned in consultant-led units) but the absolute risk is low. The midwives attending homebirths are trained to recognise the development of possible complications early, and will discuss any concerns with you if they felt it would be better to transfer to hospital.

All the local maternity services attend homebirths. If you choose to give birth at home, one of the midwives from your community team will come and visit you at home before the birth to chat through what will happen, what to prepare and when to call. Once you are in labour, you will be looked after by a community midwife, although it cannot be guaranteed this will always be a midwife from your own team. A second midwife will be called when the birth is near. After the birth the midwife will stay with you to ensure you and your baby are well and to help you start feeding. If you need stitches these can usually be done at home.

The midwife will bring gas and air and you can hire a birth pool. You may have read a warning in the news about birth pools at home; using a pool which is filled from your tap only at the start of labour does not increase the risk of infection for babies, but leaving a pool with a built-in heater and recirculation pump filled with warm water for days before labour poses a serious infection risk. You can read more here.

The Bristol Homebirth Group is a support group which is attended by local midwives for anyone seeking further information. They meet on the first Sunday of every month from 7-9 pm.