Are home births safe?

If you have already had a normal pregnancy and baby, and this pregnancy is considered low risk, giving birth at home has been shown to be just as safe as birth in a hospital unit.

If you have already had a normal pregnancy, research has shown that the rate of interventions (such as forceps or caesarean section) during a home birth is lower and the result for the baby is the same as if you had been in hospital or midwife-led unit.

It is my first pregnancy, can I have a home birth?

If this is your first baby, even if you are having a low risk uncomplicated pregnancy you might prefer to give birth in a midwife-led unit instead of home. A midwife-led unit has the same philosophy of care as a home birth. It normalises birth rather than thinking of it as medical. The midwifery-led units are led by midwives and can be alongside a hospital birth centre (sometimes referred to as ‘home from home’) or be in the community (‘freestanding’ or ‘stand alone’).

Although the rate of interventions (such as forceps or caesarean section) is lower at home than in a midwife-led unit, if you have a home birth there is a small increase in risk of medical problems for the baby (9 per 1,000 births compared with 5 per 1,000 in a midwife-led unit). Also, you’re more likely to be transferred to hospital during labour if you give birth at home.

What if I have problems during a home birth?

If your baby gets into difficulty during labour or you need medical attention, you will be transferred quickly to your nearest hospital in an ambulance.

Are there reasons I can't have a home birth?

If you have any medical conditions, such as diabetes or pre-eclampsia, or you have had a previous caesarean section, a hospital birth will be recommended as there are increased risks to the baby during labour.

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

If you have made your decision about having your baby at home, tell your midwife early so you can plan it together. A home birth can make you more relaxed, which reduces your need for pain relief. There are some types of pain relief that you will not be able to have at home, such as the epidural.

Can I change my mind about a home birth?

Even if you choose a home birth, you can ask for a transfer to hospital during labour – if you decide you would like an epidural, for example.

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

1. NICE  (2014) Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth, Clinical guideline 190 p10, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/resources/guidance-intrapartum-care-care-of-healthy-women-and-their-babies-during-childbirth-pdf

2. NIHR (2011) Birthplace Programme Overview: Background, component studies and summary of findings, London, National Institute for Health Research:http://www.nets.nihr.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/84945/FR1-08-1604-140.pdf

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