Call The Midwife is the fictional British Sunday night show beloved by millions, harking back to a time when midwives hopped on their bikes to deliver babies at home.
Many women watching wonder how on earth the women got through it. But in 2018 an increasing number of women are choosing a Call the Midwife-style home delivery for their own birth.
Since the 1960s, most women have chosen to give birth in hospital, believing it to be safer. In recent years though, research has shown that, for many women, a home birth is at least as safe as one on a labour ward.
I’m a far from stereotypical proponent of natural birthing
Home birth in uncomplicated pregnancies is supported by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Royal College of Midwives in the United Kingdom and by the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian colleges of midwives.
It was this research, along with an intrusive and uncomfortable experience in hospital in 2009, that led me to go for a home birth myself this year.
I’m far from a stereotypical proponent of natural birthing – lentil-weaving hippie I most definitely am not. Nor do I feel hugely nostalgic for a golden age of midwives delivering babies with little more than a kind word and stick to bite down on for the mother.
A hospital birth can’t be described as ‘personal’ in any way
I have absolutely no issue with women who choose hospital births with as much pain relief as they can get their hands on. It’s how I safely delivered my first two children.
That said, unless you’re very wealthy, a hospital birth can’t be described as ‘personal’ in any way. Most maternity wards are hugely oversubscribed and understaffed, and midwives often supervise up to ten labouring women at any one time.
A visit to my local ward early in the summer sealed my choice. At three in the morning, the nurses were battling a queue of women in early labour, many forced to sit on the hospital floor.
Such discomfort is not something any woman wants to experience.
I got to choose where in my home I delivered
In comparison with my delivery, I had one midwife, who I had grown to know during my pregnancy, for the whole delivery. A second turned up once proceedings became more intense and a third arrived to help with the clear up.
I got to choose where in my home I delivered, going with a water birth in the living room, and while you do have to sacrifice any chance of an epidural, I did have gas and air on tap.
Midwives are much less hands on at home and you have a great deal more autonomy in how your delivery is handled. Feeling more in control meant I felt safer and calmer from minute one – vital in avoiding medical intervention.
Once the baby was safely delivered, instead of being wheeled from the delivery room to a noisy post-natal ward, I climbed into my own clean bed.
That quiet time bonding will remain one of the most special memories for the rest of our lives
The nicest part of the delivery was not about me at all, but in the opportunity it offered my husband to be much closer to the process. Normally, after delivery dads can stay for a bit, but once mum is on the ward, they’re bundled off.
Instead, once everyone left, he was able to settle down with us and help me through the night. That quiet time bonding will remain one of the most special memories for the rest of our lives.
A home delivery might not be for everyone, but if you’ve already had one child and are fit and well overall, I highly recommend considering it for a much more relaxed, personal birth.
HOME BIRTH FACT FILE
In 2015, 2.3% of women gave birth at home.
You can only give birth at home if you are not obese and have no medical conditions, such as pre-eclampsia or diabetes.
Be aware that if you want a water birth, you’ll need to hire the pool. I used Mermaid at Heart.
Women aged between 35 and 39 are most likely to give birth at home.
If you choose a home birth, you will only have access to gas and air for pain relief.
The NHS website offers further research and advice on choosing a home birth.