Pregnancy and birth – how exciting! First off, congratulations. If you’re reading this you most likely are pregnant or have a partner or loved one who is. A new baby coming into your life is exciting and can also be nerve-wracking. You’re probably full of questions, especially when it comes to planning for labor and birth.
There’s a saying in birth work – your body, your baby, your choice. Medical conditions and financial accessibility aside, you get to choose where you have your baby. For some people that means a hospital, for others a birth center, and for some – at home.
What is A Home Birth?
Homebirth is just what it sounds like – laboring and birthing from the comfort of your home (or another chosen location). These are typically attended by a licensed midwife (medical birth professional). Some people also hire a doula, which is a non-medical birth professional who provides emotional, physical, and educational support for people during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.
In the U.S., about 0.9% of all births occur at home each year. Although about a fourth of these are unplanned or unattended home births – meaning there’s no medical support. That’s a tiny slice of the birth pie, but it is becoming a more popular option.
Everyone has their own reasons for choosing home birth. Some of the most common are wanting to avoid unnecessary medical interventions like episiotomies and cesarean sections, the ability to be in the comfort of their own home, and having more options for their choice of provider.
Are Home Births Safe?
Birthing outside of the hospital can bring up a lot of fears and worries, especially in places where it’s not as common. This comprehensive study of birth outcomes over a large population shows that overall, home births are relatively safe for low-risk pregnancies. Not only are they safe, but home births for low-risk pregnancies can actually drastically reduce the chance of having an unnecessary intervention. In the United States, the C-section rate for full-term pregnancies is 31%, versus 5.2% for people who plan on having a home birth.
Different countries and regions have varying legislation around who is eligible for a home birth. Some people may not be able to if they have certain health conditions if their baby is over forty-two weeks gestation, if they are pregnant with multiples, or if their baby is breech (feet or butt first instead of head down). Wondering if you’re eligible for a home birth? Let’s learn how to find a provider, and how to prepare to have a home birth.
Prepping for A Home Birth
So you’re hoping to have a homebirth? This takes a little extra preparation so that you have the right supplies, and can hopefully set yourself up for success. Here are some key tips to keep in mind:
Find The Right Provider
Most planned home births are attended by a licensed birth professional like a midwife. Finding the right midwife depends on where you live. One of the best tools here is word of mouth. Try asking friends, people in pregnancy or birth education groups, online forums,, and anywhere else you can find birth information.
Your best bet is to do a Google search to find a midwife in your area, then read reviews. You also may be able to find information through your insurance provider. Once you have a healthcare provider that you trust and feel comfortable with, you can get some advice on these next steps.
Get Your Supplies
The supplies you need depend on what your midwife provides and what your plans are for labor. Your midwife will of course cover all medical supplies and possibly some other gear, many also sell home birth supply kits. These can also be found online. Here are some other important things to have on hand for a home birth:
- A good mattress protector
- Sheets, towels, and pillows that can be thrown away
- Chuck-it pads (pads that can be thrown down to absorb bodily fluids and then thrown out)
- A birth tub and tarp if you’d like to labor or birth in the water, along with a reliable system to get warm water to the tub
- Easy to eat snacks like deli meat and cheese, yogurt, and crackers with dip
- Hydrating drinks like coconut water
- Essential oils and cotton pads
- Birth ball, peanut ball, and birth stool
- A small fan
- Candles for ambiance and low light
- Heating pads
- Yoga mats for the birthing person and support people to lean on
- Lubrication jelly
- Bendy straws – this makes it a lot easier to drink during later stages of labor
- Postpartum pads and padsicles
- Gear for your placenta if you plan to print or encapsulate it
- A hearty meal for after birth
- Baby supplies like a hat, swaddle blanket, and diapers
- Peri Bottle for cleaning after you use the bathroom postpartum – it can sting!
This is just a starter list, you’ll most likely need a lot of other supplies for labor, birth, and postpartum.
Set Up Your Space
One of the biggest benefits of having a home birth is being able to do it from the comfort of your own home. This means being able to set up your space in a way that you’re excited to welcome a new member of your family into.
You can light (unscented) candles for ambiance, play music, set up little zones throughout your house, and even create altars or other meaningful areas. Some other ways you can set up the space are by putting up birth mantras or affirmations and other inspirational decorations.
Warn Your Neighbors
It will come as no surprise that birth can be loud. Roars, yells, and deep guttural noises are a normal part of the process of labor. You may want to warn your neighbors what’s going on so they don’t think something is wrong! You can also put a note on your front door to deter any unwelcome knocking during labor.
Prepare For Any Outcome
Birth is unpredictable and doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes people decide they want pain medication after some time, have been in labor for days and need an intervention, or need to transfer to the hospital for another reason.
Most homebirth to hospital transfers are not immediate emergencies, and your midwife will do their best to transfer well before immediate medical attention is necessary. Because of this, it’s important to have a hospital bag ready to go just in case things don’t go according to plan.
Welcome to Parenthood!
How you birth is one of the first big decisions you’ll make as a parent. Weigh your options, talk to other parents and your medical providers to figure out the best choice for you. If it’s home birth, then we hope this mini-guide helped you prepare!