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Planning for a home birth: Your Options

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Having a baby means that you are going to be responsible for a lot of decisions in the future. Cloth or disposable nappies? Vaccines or not? Public or state school? If you're pregnant, or hoping to become pregnant soon, one of your first decisions will be where you'd like to have your baby, and who you'd like to help you deliver. If you've chosen to have your baby at home, you have quite a few options when designing your ideal birth plan.

Choosing to birth your baby in the privacy of your own home means that you get to make a lot of choices that you would not necessarily have if you were planning to birth in the hospital. Of course not everything goes as planned in childbirth, and there are bound to be some surprises, especially if this is your first baby. It helps, though, to have a plan in mind so that your midwife and other birth attendants can help you to have a birth that is close to your ideal as possible.

Who would you like to have present at your homebirth? Most women want their spouse or partner to be actively supporting them during their birth. If you have other children, think about where you'd like them to be. Possibilities include having them at a friend's house, keeping them home but occupied elsewhere in the house, or having them in the room with you. Consider their ages and personal feelings. Try not to be disappointed if they do not want to be involved! Some kids are scared or nervous about the birthing process, or of seeing Mum in pain. Also, don't feel guilty if you'd rather not have your kids at home with you. You know how you react to labour and delivery, and if you'd rather not have your children there, then they can meet their new sibling just as easily after he or she is born.

Don't worry appeasing extended family members. Most mothers or mothers-in-law would love to see their grandchild come into the world, but you need to be mindful of your own comfort level. Remember that it is perfectly acceptable to not call anyone when you are in labour, but to instead wait until you have already delivered your new baby. Sometimes relatives feel that since you are birthing at home, they don't need to abide by any visitors' hours or other courtesies. Set boundaries for the birth and also for a few days afterwards when you will be tired and getting to know your new baby.

Think about the layout of your home and where you might like to spend the bulk of your labour and where you might actually deliver. Your bed might seem like the logical option, but if it is upstairs and far away from the kitchen and loo, you might consider setting up a futon or other portable bed in a more convenient place. Think about which rooms are warmer if you will be delivering in a cold month, or cooler and more comfortable if you are due in the summer. If you are planning to have a water birth, think about where to put the pool. It will need to be located near a tap so that you can run hot water either directly into the pool, or through a hose.

You will also need to make some decisions about the birth itself. Your midwife will likely suggest positions during your labour and transition to help you to handle the pain of childbirth and to help guide the baby into the right position. If you'd like to be reminded to try certain positions during delivery, tell your midwife before you go into labour. Also think about what optional interventions, if any, you'd like once the baby is born. Would you like the baby to receive a vitamin K shot? Do you want antibiotic eye drops administered? When would you like to have the umbilical cord cut? There are things to think about beforehand and to talk to your midwife about.

The day (or night!) that you give birth to your new baby will be a day that you remember for the rest of your life. Time spent planning now will help you to have a wonderful birth experience, but remember to be flexible in your expectations. Sometimes babies come more quickly than anticipated, and there might not be time to fill the birthing pool, even if you've dreamed of delivering in the water. Other times labour takes longer than expected, and your older children, who were so eager to watch the delivery, are asleep by the time the baby makes his long awaited appearance. The most important thing is a healthy mum and a healthy baby. By planning a home-birth, you've already taken an important step toward those goals. Keep an open mind, read all you can, talk to your midwife, and enjoy your pregnancy!

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Article by Michelle Kulas

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