How to prepare for a home birth plus how to have an empowered birth regardless of your birth choices
I’ve had a few people ask what we are doing/have done to get prepared for our homebirth.
I wanted to share with you that prior to this birth I have had two very different hospital birth experiences.
Our first was not a great experience and the entire pregnancy I felt really unsupported by our care providers and it was very stressful, I tore badly during birth and was mentally traumatised from the experience.
At the time I did not realise the vast differences between the obstetric model of care and the midwifery model of care and unfortunately we were just treated like a number and our birth plan wishes were not listened to,
Which transpired to a very fear led stressful birth. Although I had a natural birth my mental recovery was a long road.
With our second birth I switched to midwifery care. At the time we considered a home birth but we ended up deciding on a hospital birth. We found a beautiful midwife through a midwife group program (this is offered in some hospitals and allows you to have the same midwife look after you throughout your whole pregnancy and birth) and when I discussed my birth wishes of having a natural birth with no unnecessary interventions our wishes were honoured.
We were very lucky to have a profoundly healing peaceful birth in hospital which was completely hands off from the supporting midwifes. To date this has been one of the most empowering experiences of my life. Our little girl was born in a dimly lit room, in the shower while our midwife watched from a distance. It was such a gentle peaceful birth (2 words I had never imagined could be paired with the word birth after my first experience).
Through my experience I’ve learnt that a calm peaceful birth is possible despite what we are often taught that the only outcome with birth is an extremely painful traumatic experience. Unfortunately often with the obstetric model of care birth is often treated as a medical emergency right from the very beginning even if you are at a low risk of having complications. Often because of this so many unnecessary interventions are brought into the process which can unfortunately sometimes snowball and lead to more interventions and suboptimal outcomes.
I became so passionate about helping others to learn more about this I volunteered to help the wonderful women at home birth NSW and through this process I learnt even more about the possibilities that are out there for women and that there needs to be more openness especially in Australia about the potentials to have an empowered peaceful natural birth and that as women we are capable of more than we realise.
Of course in high risk pregnancies and high risk situations there are times when medical intervention is absolutely needed and necessary, and I’m grateful that this is an option for times of true emergency however more often than not this is not the case in a low risk pregnancy.
Head over the HOME BIRTH NSW WEBSITE to learn more.
The biggest lesson I have learnt in this process is to trust your gut, if you don’t feel comfortable with your care provider find someone new. I feel so much for the younger me, being pregnant for the first time who would walk out of every obstetric appointment crying because of how I was treated and the mental bullying and abuse I endured thinking that this way the only way. I’m saddened knowing that many women are not lucky enough to experience a gentle empowering birth exactly the way nature intended, due to the way modern medicine often will treat the birth process and then the associated trauma that comes with that.
I had to relearn all I thought I knew about birth especially after I had my first baby and I became terrified of birth, however through doing lots of mental preparation including affirmations, inner healing work, hypnobirthing classes, researching and watching multiple documentaries about positive birth stories I realised just how powerful women are- our bodies are perfectly designed to birth our babies and it really helped me to have the birth of my dreams with number 2.
So that lead us to decide to home birth with bub number 3. Did you know in many countries it is common practice and actually encouraged to have a homebirth? Especially in countries like the UK and NZ amongst many other countries around the world.
Unfortunately in Australia (although popularity is gaining fast) there is a lot more red tape put onto practicing midwives to allow them to facilitate a home birth. Some hospitals do provide the service but often it is not offered and you need to find a practicing private midwife at your own cost.
We have found a beautiful midwife team to support our upcoming birth and with me currently being 38weeks I thought I would share what I’ve done and what I’ve collected to be prepared as possible to have a home birth. Note: many of these tips are also relevant if you decide to have a hospital birth too.
Mindset, research and mental preparation
To mentally prepare I recommend checking out the resources + research on the home birth nsw site (this also includes safety statistics which prove just how safe it is to birth at home and can help if your have fears around birthing at home)
Also head to the website created by my friend Aimee Sing who is a doula and president of homebirth nsw for more amazing resources to support you on your birth journey.
You can also listen to a great podcast episode that Aimee and I did together last year, you will hear more about our stories including Aimee’s experience with having a caesarean followed by an VBAC homebirth. We discuss many topics around ways that you can feel more empowered with birth and mothering no matter where or how you decide to birth.
Here is also a link to a great documentary called birthtime, which talks about the different models of care currently available in Australia and really gives a good overview of everything that made me choose differently for my third birth. Highly recommend having a watch.
I recommend reading the hypnobirthing book during your pregnancy and doing either a calm birthing or hypnobirthing course during your pregnancy to help get in the right headspace.
I also have found booking in an EFT session with a qualified practitioner in the weeks leading up to your birth to help you move past any fears you may have of birth (this is called emotional freedom technique also known as tapping) it can usually be done online.
I recommend downloading the app iHypnoBirth $5.99 as it has some helpful guided meditations and affirmations you can listen to prior to and during your birth. I recommend listening daily to the meditations in the 6 weeks leading up to your birth.
Another app which is helpful is the “Contraction timer” app which allows you to keep track of the time between contractions once labour gets going.
Nutrition and nourishment for pregnancy and post partum
In terms of whole food nourishment during pregnancy and post partum I recommend the following books:
-Real food for pregnancy by Lily Nichols
-The first 40 days – The essential art of nourishing the new mother by Heng OU
-The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr Oscar Serrallach
Here is a list of things I have done and collected to prepare for our upcoming homebirth. Obviously you don’t need to do all the things I have done, but hopefully this helps to spark some ideas and helps you plan your own birth with the points that resonate.
-I found in both of my previous births due to the way hospitals work there is often pressure to set an “induction” day. For both of my births I booked in to have an acupuncture “induction” with a local acupuncturist at 40weeks. With both of my previous births I went into labour within 12 hours of this process. I highly recommend this as I was able to avoid a medical induction and was able to go into labour naturally. Talk with your local acupuncturist on a plan as it can sometimes take 2-3 sessions for this process to be effective, if you are worried about pooing in labour (which is normal and nothing to be ashamed of) you can ask them to also activate some points that help you release your bowels prior to labour. I plan on booking an acupuncture session at 40weeks with this pregnancy if I don’t go into labour naturally before then. Highly recommend.
-Throughout my pregnancy I had monthly chiropractic sessions to ensure my back and pelvis were in optimal alignment in the lead up to birth.
Things to consider with your birth space and supplies:
One thing that has helped me in preparation has been to create a space in our home that i feel really comfortable in. A place that has a calm, safe and peaceful atmosphere to labour in, when things get going.
For us we have chosen our bedroom/ ensuite area. I’ve filled the room with my favourite things, plants, oils, comfy sheets and other bits and pieces that I love. I recommend you do the same. It can be helpful to write down how you want to feel in your space before you set out making it happen.
With your birth pool, have a think about the following:
-Where can you get one? We were able to hire one from our midwives
-Where are you going to place it? Funnily enough we had planned to have ours placed in our bedroom but it doesn’t comfortably fit as I wanted plenty of space to move around so we have set up a section on our deck. Luckily we live on a property that is incredibly private. We created an enclosed area that will stop the mosquitos in case I end up birthing at night. We also have ensured we have adequate heating available to keep me warm if I end up having a water birth on a cooler day.
I often find though I naturally gravitate towards the shower as I have found the water really soothing to help me get through the labour.
I’ve given myself plenty of space to move around and will just see how it all plays out on the day.
-Make sure you purchase the correct plumbing attachments to connect a hose to the indoor tap so you can connect to hot water. I also recommend purchasing a shower head attachment so that the hose can double as a shower which you can use to hold onto your lower back to assist with the pain while filling up the pool. I have found the water pressure from a shower head really helpful to manage pain in my previous births.
-Work out whether you need to purchase a tarp to go underneath to protect carpet/flooring.
-Make sure you have a hose long enough to fill it and also think about how you will drain it- have you got access to the garden outside with gravity to use a hose to siphon the water out of it after birth.
-Check that you have a good hot water system. If not make sure you have a kettle to have the ability to continue to top up water incase the hot water runs out.
-Purchase an electric pump to fill the pool with air. We bought ours from Bunnings and it was about $20
-When planning the space, plan to have birth pool closest to your bed or where you plan on being/ sitting with your baby after birth as you may feel a bit wobbly.
-Purchase 1-2 drop sheets or waterproof mattress protector to protect the couch/mattress/chair to catch any blood loss. Set up bed with mattress protector prior to going into labour. You can also lay a drop sheet in between the top and bottom sheets.
-Make sure you have 2 – 3 sets of sheets
-Be sure to have at least 12 dry towels. I know this sounds like a lot but it will be important for you and the baby to stay warm especially if getting in and out of water and if your are moving around shower/bath and other areas of your home during labour. The towels will also be helpful to clean up any fluids.
-Make sure you have plenty of blankets and baby wraps to stay warm
-Ensure you have adequate heating in your house
-Exercise ball to bounce on during the labour
-Make sure you have earphones if you would like to listen to positive birth affirmations during birth.
-Large stainless steel bowl (or other bowl that can float) for your placenta.
-Large bucket for possible nausea and vomiting
-Plastic container with lid if you are having your placenta encapsulated or to freeze for later purpose
-Hire a TENS machine! They are amazing at helping to reduce pain. This can be really helpful for afterbirth pains which often get worse with each birth. (Note: if you end up having a water or shower birth a tens machine can’t be used in water) I hired this from www.blissbirth.com.au
-Heatpack/ hot water bottle for afterbirth pains
-A fan for when you feel really hot at the end of labour also face washers you can wet to help keep you cool
Food and drinks to consider: during labour these are some ideas to help you stay hydrated keep up energy.
-Bottle of water with a straw (sometimes drinking with a straw during labour can be helpful)
-Paleo snack bars
-Ingredients to make a smoothie e.g nut butter, coconut milk, water, berries etc
-Dehydrated fruit snacks
-Ingredients to throw together a snack plate for everyone present including partner and midwives, if it ends up being a long labour. I chose things I could keep unopened in a bag in the fridge for a few weeks so someone could easily throw something together- cheese, olives, sun dried tomatoes, salami, dips, rice crackers etc)
-Frozen healing chicken soup to defrost for post birth meal
-Also consider some snacks and warm drinks for afterwards, ones you can eat with one hand as you cuddle your baby.
Essential oil birth and postpartum blends: I have the following essential oils and blends on hand (note: I only recommend 100% pure essential oils. I use doTERRA):
-Go time labour support blend: in a 10ml roller add 5drops of wild orange, 5drops of clary sage, 5 drops of peppermint. Apply to pulse points and back of neck as required.
-Back pain roller blend: in a 10 ml roller add 10 drops copaiba, 10drops basil, 10drops black pepper
-Perineum oil spray: 10drops frankincense, 10 lavender, 10 helichrysum in a small spritzer bottle topped with fractionated coconut oil this can be used pre birth to support perineum preparation/massage and post to promote healing.
-Calming roller blend: in a 10 ml roller 5 drops copaiba, 5 drops lavender peace, 5drops frankincense top with fractionated coconut oil apply to pulse points as required.
-Hormone balancing blend for post birth: in a 10ml roller add 5drops of lavender, 5drops frankincense, 5drops ylang ylang, 5drops geranium and top with fractionated coconut oil. Apply to the back of neck or pulse points as required.
-Mastitis blend: in a 10ml roller add 10drops frankincense, 10drops tea-tree, 10 drops lavender apply to any lumps while taking other mastitis precautions
-Calming/ uplifting oils to diffuse in the room:
Adaptive blend, lavender peace, wild orange or balance.
Herbal Tinctures: From blissful herbs I recommend purchasing the following herbal tinctures to support:
Homeopathic remedies: I also have the following homeopathic remedies on hand(note keep these away from other strong smells as they are really sensitive to strong smells like essential oils and it can reduce effectiveness). It’s helpful to visit a homeopath during your pregnancy as many offer a birth kit that you can purchase specific to your situation and they can advise dosage amounts. Some I have been recommended and used during my previous 2 births are:
-Arnica 200 helpful for pain, bruising, swelling
-Caulophyllum 200 “induction remedy” if overdue or labour is ineffectual and exhaustion starts to set in. Also helps to create a regular rhythm of contractions when labour has been intermittent.
-Aconite 200 helpful to support if birth was quick. Useful for mother of shivering after delivery. Encourages nervous system to stabilise. Should be given to all mothers post babies birth as it encourages full placenta expulsion
-Gelsemium 30 great for anticipatory anxiety, or fears of complications.
-Hypericum 30 support for any cuts or tears and helps the pelvic area to realign after birth
Additional things to have on hand/consider for during and post birth:
-If you are wanting some photos taken, consider some additional low lighting, such as lamps. No matter how good the camera, details will be lost in very low light.
-Wet wipes to make wiping and going to the toilet easier post birth (make sure you choose a brand of organic wet wipes as many use toxic ingredients)
-Pad that has been filled with water or ice pack wrapped in paper towel and placed in underwear for comfort post birth
-Purchase 2x packs of maternity pads (I use the Tom’s organic brand)
-Breast pump to help you express when milk comes in (especially if you have an excess of milk to help reduce mastitis)
-Clothes for baby
-Nappies for baby
-Comfortable clothes for you to labour in and then for post birth
-A small bag with essentials incase you need a last minute transfer to hospital.
-If you have other young children it can be nice to bake a cake to pop in the freezer – pull it out when labour starts and when bub is born you can have a “birthday party” to celebrate the arrival of your newest addition together. You could also have some icing and candles that your partner or midwife could help prepare post birth.
-It can also be nice to wrap up a couple of small gifts that you can gift to the other kids that are “from the baby” to make it special for the other children too. It could be as simple as a soft toy or a sticker book depending on age.
Above all do your best to try and just go with the flow, listen to your body and just ride the waves that bring you closer to your baby. We can do all the positive preparation but sometimes some things just end up being out of our control, however try not to focus on the things you can’t control- just focus on what you can control and on the day just take it one step at a time.
I hope you have found this list helpful in planning your own beautiful birth!
My hope is by sharing this information and our journey with you, it helps you to feel more confident in choosing the model of care that suits you for your pregnancy + gives you enough information to help you to make an informed decision.
Send us all the good vibes as we move through the veil and bring this baby earth side.
If you have anything else you would add I would love to hear from you.
Birth photo credit Echo Life Photography.