Are home births safe?

Giving birth is generally safe wherever you choose to have your baby. Here’s a few things to think about if you’re considering a home birth.

You can choose to have your baby in hospital, in a midwife-led birth unit or centre or at home. This is a big decision and it’ll help to talk to your midwife and find out more about your options

Where you give birth is up to you and you should be supported in your choice. Just keep in mind that your midwife may advise you to choose one place over another, depending on your circumstances.

Having a home birth 

If you’ve had a baby before and this pregnancy is low-risk, giving birth at home is generally a safe and suitable option. This is because:

  • you are less likely to need interventions (such as ventouse or forceps, caesarean section or episiotomy) if you plan to give birth at home than in a hospital
  • the chances of the baby having a serious medical problem (which are very low) are not affected by where you plan to give birth.

There are lots of practical advantages of giving birth at home too, such as the comfort of being in familiar surroundings, where you may be more comfortable and relaxed. But there are some to think about. For example, epidurals are not available if you give birth at home. Your midwife can tell you more about your options for pain relief in labour.  

This is my first pregnancy. Can I have a home birth?

If this is your first baby and you are having a low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancy, you may be advised to give birth in a midwife-led unit. This is because:

  • you are less likely to need interventions (such as ventouse or forceps, caesarean section or episiotomy) if you plan to give birth in a midwife-led unit compared to a hospital
  • the chances of your baby having a serious medical problem (which are very low) are slightly higher if you plan to give birth at home, rather than at a midwife-led unit or hospital.

What if I have problems during a home birth?

If you give birth at home, a midwife will be with you while you’re in labour. They are prepared to begin emergency measures if there is a problem. But if your baby gets into difficulty or your labour isn’t progressing and you need more medical attention, your midwife will arrange for you to go to hospital.

One study found that more women having their first baby were transferred to hospital from home than women who have had babies before.

Your midwife should give you more information about what would happen if you need to be transferred to hospital during labour and how long this would take.

Are there reasons I would be advised not to have a home birth?

You’ll probably be advised to give birth at the hospital if you:

  • have any medical conditions
  • had problems with a previous pregnancy or birth, such as an emergency caesarean section
  • develop complications during your pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia 
  • are expecting more than one baby or your baby is breech.

Can I have pain relief if I have a home birth?

You can use opioids, gas and air, a warm bath, birth pool, TENS and any relation techniques you’ve learned, such as hypnobirthing. You won’t be able to have an epidural at home.

Find out more about pain relief in labour.

When do I need to tell the midwife that I would like a home birth?

Tell your midwife early if you have made your decision about having your baby at home, so you can plan it together.

Can I change my mind about a home birth?

Yes, you can change your mind at any time during your pregnancy. You can also ask for a transfer to hospital during labour if you don’t feel comfortable.

Find out more about having a home birth

Chat to others who have had or are planning a home birth in BabyCentre’s home birth community group.

Read more frequently asked questions in pregnancy

Sources

NICE (2014). Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies National Institute for health and care excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190

NHS Choices. Where to give birth: the options https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/where-can-i-give-birth/ (Page last reviewed: 06/03/2018 Next review due: 06/06/2021)

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Last reviewed on December 5th, 2018. Next review date December 5th, 2021.

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