Preparing for a home birth
The number of parents considering home birth is on the rise, although home births account for approximately 2% of all births in Canada. Recent data from a large scale study out of McMaster University shows that home birth is just as safe as hospital birth, and has a lower risk of interventions such as instrumental delivery and episiotomy.
Home birth with a midwife can be a viable option for low-risk pregnant women (no underlying medical conditions,) who are hoping for an unmedicated birth. Some women find that staying at home can allow labour to progress more effectively, as they find comfort in a familiar environment.
If home birth is an option, parents will need to prepare their home and make sure they have all the supplies on hand. Home birth does not have to be a messy process, and couples that are prepared will have very little clean-up to do.
Most midwifery groups offer home birth supply kits, so check with your midwife to see what is included. As a start, parents will want to have:
- Old towels and sheets: take a trip to Value Village and purchase a number of towels and a set of sheets for your bed.
- Plastic sheet: this will be placed on the bed, under the old sheets (any waterproof sheet will work, including shower curtains.) Have a nicer set of sheets underneath the plastic sheet, so that the whole bed can be stripped after birth, and families can snuggle up on the clean sheets.
- Blue pads: similar to puppy pee pads, these blue pads will soak up lots of fluid and protect mattresses and floors.
- Garbage bags: midwives will set up two garbage bags; one for laundry, and the other for garbage. They will be working hard after the birth to leave your house looking spotless!
- Pillows with pillow protectors and old pillow cases
- Peri bottle: this helps to prevent stinging during urination after birth
- Large container for placenta: yes, the placenta is your responsibility. Throw it in the freezer and then put it out in the green bin on garbage day. Or better yet, plant it in your backyard under a beautiful tree!
- Food and drink: it’s important to offer everyone food and drink during a home birth. Have some banana bread ready to go in the freezer, and make sure to stock up on coffee and tea. A soup or stew is also a great meal to offer the birth team.
Midwives will arrive with all the medical supplies they need, including oxygen. They will need a place to set up all of their supplies, and may do a home visit prior to the birth to scope out a good spot.
Depending on the home, some couples will consider renting a birthing tub. These are large inflatable tubs with disposable liners, and allow laboring women to be completely immersed in water. Birth tubs can be costly ($180-$275) and it’s important to know whether a hot water tank can accommodate the amount of hot water needed to fill the tub.
Finally, it’s important to pack a hospital bag in the event that a transfer is necessary. Around 75% of women that plan a home birth will stay at home, but some will need to head into the hospital for extra assistance. Make sure everything is ready to go, including your health card.
Women who have home births report a high level of satisfaction with the experience. The combination of a cozy home environment and a skilled attendant can provide a perfect alternative to a hospital birth. As long as families are prepared with all the supplies they need, home birth can be a straightforward and rewarding experience.