With many homebirth services being temporarily suspended across the country, let’s focus on easing your anxiety and getting you better prepared for labour and birth in hospital.
As a birth doula, I have supported labouring women at home and in hospital – here are some practical tips which may be helpful for your preparation, for your options and for your mindset.
The benefits of a homebirth are that you don’t go anywhere, the midwives come to you so the transition of moving to hospital need to be managed and being at home means you can wander freely at home where you feel more comfortable but this can be managed as well.
Many parents want to stay at home for as long as possible before transferring to the maternity unit. This depends on how comfortable you are at home and how safe you feel as you may reach a point during your labour where you want the reassurance of a midwife. It can also help to keep in touch with the maternity unit during early labour if you need reassurance and guidance.
Here’s a few things to consider…
Consider what you take in with you. You may want more familiar items around you to help you feel more comfortable and relaxed – your own birth ball, a throw/blanket/scarf, music, battery-powered candles/fairy lights for more atmosphere, a familiar smell or a photograph can all help to make that birth space yours.
Know how to use your breathing. Breathe, breathe and breathe some more to stay calm, to work with your contractions, to stay focused if there are interruptions and noise, to stay focused if you are feeling overwhelmed, frightened or panicky.
Know what can help with your contractions and with your energy. Having the freedom and encouragement to move and use gravity, which can also be on the bed if that is where you need to be; knowing how to use your breathing to stay calm; having a calm birth space; using the birthing pool, your birth ball and different positions to rest in-between contractions.
Say what you need. To move, to remain calm, to ask for quiet, to ask for encouragement, to be as comfortable as possible. Ask questions to gather information, to know more about your options but you are not asking permission to move, breathe and to work with your contractions.
Look after your birth space. Once booked in to hospital you will have your own room, which may be en-suite. Ask where the facilities are when you get to the hospital so you can quickly familiarise yourself.
You may be sharing your midwife with someone, the midwives may be busy but speak up if you need more support and reassurance.
There may be noise – use music, headphones, ear plugs to stay focused – and there may be interruptions – ask that only your midwife comes into your room.
Nest – make it comfortable for you with dimmed lighting, your birth ball, floor mats so you can move freely and comfortably.
The birth pool. You may have planned to use a birth pool at home so talk to your midwife about this when you arrive at the hospital. If using a birth pool is not possible, ask about your options because you may be able to use a bath or shower instead, which can still provide some comfort, as well as a private space.
If you can’t use water, this may knock your confidence. Let your emotions out – have a shout, have a cry – and then regroup, focus on your breathing and focus on how you are going to work with your contractions and what you need to do that.
One birth partner. The current restrictions due to Covid-19 mean that one birth partner is allowed when a labouring woman is booked in and established labour is confirmed. As well as providing support, encouragement and reassurance for you, your birth partner is also there to communicate with the midwives and to help make your birth space comfortable.
Believe in your ability to do this. If you were planning a homebirth, your self believe was probably pretty good so don’t lose that confidence.
You are still labouring at home. It might feel right for you to stay at home for as long as possible before transferring in to the maternity unit. Use your coping strategies throughout early labour and as your contractions intensify.
Your transfer to hospital. To continue to work with your contractions, breathe to stay calm, listen to your relaxation music, work with your body, let those contractions come.
If your contractions slow when you get to the hospital – which can be normal, try to relax, get settled in your birth space and allow those contractions to build back up again.
It is ok to make different decisions about pain relief. You are birthing in a different environment so different choices may need to be made.
If you opt for an epidural, gravity is still so important:
*have the back of your bed as upright as possible
*you can use a ball on the bed to lean over for labour and for birth
*you can move around to give your baby more space
*you can also rest while giving your body what it needs
Look after the birth space is also really important to help you stay as relaxed and calm as possible – this all helps your body create the right balance of hormones so your contractions are more effective.
*Dim the lights
*Listen to your relaxation music
*Talk to your partner
*Use your breathing
You’ve got this!
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions.
Janine – a specialist in pregnancy, birth and parent wellbeing