A home birth is when a parent births their baby at home- most commonly with the support of 2 midwives. Some families choose homebirth because they want a more intimate and relaxed birthing experience. Or maybe they have concerns about the medicalisation of childbirth when birthing in a hospital environment.
If you are considering homebirth and you are the Dad/partner, it’s important to know what you’ll need on the day. How you can support your partner and what happens in the event of a transfer into hospital.
Your Role at a Home Birth
As a dad/birth partner, your role at a home birth is to support your partner in whatever way they need. This may include providing emotional support, helping with household tasks, and advocating for your partner’s needs and wishes during the birthing process. Wherever the birth is happening, your presence will help your partner to feel safe and nurtured. Listening to what they need from you is key.
Preparing Your Home
Preparing your house for a home birth involves creating a comfortable and safe environment for the birth. Here are some tips to help you prepare your home:
- Choose a suitable location. You will need to choose a space in your home where the birth could take place. This may be a bedroom, living room, or other space that is comfortable, spacious, and private. It may end up being that your partner feels comfortable in a different room on the actual day.
- Set up the birth area. Set up the birth area with all the necessary equipment and supplies. This may include a birthing pool, a comfortable mattress, clean towels and sheets. Decorators sheets (the cheaper ones from DIY shops!) are handy to place under bed sheets or towels on the sofa to protect furniture. If you plan to take photos/video the birth, setting up a tripod could be a helpful way to keep hands free. Snacks and hydration are vital for someone giving birth so have a supply of those within easy reach too.
- Create a relaxing atmosphere. Use soft lighting, calming music, and other relaxation techniques such as hypnobirthing to create a peaceful and calming atmosphere for the birth. This will help to reduce any stress and anxiety and promote relaxation. Think about how you might set up a romantic evening for the two of you- and do that!
- Make arrangements for children and pets. If you have other children or pets in the home, you may need to make arrangements for their care during the birth. You may want to have a friend or family member to have them for a while. Also, remember to check with your midwife if they have any pet allergies, or nervousness, too.
- Plan for the unexpected. Even though home births are very safe, it’s important to plan for a transfer to hospital if needed. Make sure you have a backup plan and have a hospital bag packed just in case.
- Clean and declutter the space. This will help to create a calm and serene atmosphere and leave maximum space for moving around. With 2 midwives joining you, it’s a good idea to have enough seating in the room for them too. You will also need an area for them to write their notes.
By following these tips, you can create a comfortable and safe environment for your home birth.
Five Tips for Dads at a Home Birth
Here are five tips for dads who are having a home birth:
- Be prepared. Follow the above points and you will be prepared with all the practicalities for a home birth.
- Be supportive. During the birth, your partner will need your emotional support and encouragement. You are the one who helps to create oxytocin (the birthing hormone) simply with your presence. Be there for them, hold their hand, and remind them that they are strong and capable.
- Stay calm. Birth can be an intense and emotional experience. Try to remain calm and focused, and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the situation. This will help to keep your partner calm as well.
- Be an advocate. As the dad/partner, you can help to advocate for your partner’s needs and wishes during the birth process. This may include communicating with the midwife, ensuring that your partner is comfortable, and advocating for any pain relief or medical interventions that they may need. So taking the antenatal and/or hypnobirthing classes with your partner can really help to be on the same page on the day.
- Be present. The birth of your baby is a special and unique experience. It is one that you will never be able to replay again with this child. Be fully present in the moment, and take the time to bond with your new baby and support your partner as they recover.
What if Your Partner Changes Their Mind, or Needs to Transfer to the Hospital?
The transfer rate of people going to the hospital from a planned home birth in the UK varies depending on several factors, including the age, health status, and pregnancy history of the mother. As well as the experience of the midwife attending the birth.
According to the latest available statistics from the National Health Service (NHS), in 2018-2019, the transfer rate for planned home births in England was 13.7%. This means that out of 16,310 planned home births, 2,232 resulted in a transfer to the hospital. The most common reasons for transfer were prolonged labour, foetal distress, and meconium-stained liquor.
It’s important to note that the transfer rate for home births is not a measure of safety. But rather an indication of the need for medical intervention beyond what can be provided in the home setting. In most cases, transfers to the hospital during a home birth are planned and not considered emergencies.
Home births can be a safe and positive option for low-risk pregnancies who are well-supported and well-informed about the process.
When a transfer is necessary, the midwife will contact the hospital and arrange for transportation. Your partner and baby will be transported by ambulance, accompanied by the midwife, and sometimes the dad /birthing partner.
What Happens After a Transfer to Hospital?
Upon arrival at the hospital, your partner will be assessed by medical staff, and the appropriate medical interventions will be provided with their consent. Depending on the situation, this may include monitoring the baby’s heart rate, administering pain relief medication, or moving to caesarean birth.
After the birth, your partner and baby will remain in the hospital for a period of time. How long will depend on their medical needs. The midwife may be able to continue providing support during this time. But the medical staff at the hospital will take over the care of your partner and baby.
Final Thoughts on a Home Birth
Ultimately, whether or not to have a homebirth is a decision that should be made based on what is best for you, your partner, and your family. It’s important to do your research (here is the NHS guidance on birth place options). Talk to your midwife and others who have experienced a home birth. And make an informed decision that you feel comfortable with. Taking an antenatal class or New Dads Course that prepares you for all options is important. We also recommend this book ‘Why Home Birth Matters’ by Natalie Meddings to better inform yourself about birth place options.