How to have a home birth like Meghan Markle is rumoured to want

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are rumoured to want a home birth [Photo: Getty]

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry could be weeks away from welcoming their first child.

And attention has turned to where the Duchess of Sussex might give birth.

According to reports, Meghan wasn’t thought to be keen to have her baby at the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, like her sister-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge

Instead, the royal couple were said to be considering having their baby at the NHS-run Frimley Park Hospital in Camberley, Surrey – where the Countess of Wessex had her two children. 

But now friends of the Duchess of Sussex have reportedly revealed she will be following in the Queen’s footsteps and having a home birth. 

Sources have told the Daily Mail that Meghan will be having a midwife-led birth at Frogmore Cottage, the couple’s new home in Windsor.

“It is her favoured choice,” the source told the publication. “But it obviously depends on how things are nearer the time.”

The Queen was born at the home of her grandparents in Mayfair and gave birth to each of her four children at either Buckingham Palace or Clarence House.

A home birth would seem to fit in with the royal couple’s desire to have as calm a pregnancy and delivery as possible as it was previously revealed that Meghan had planned to enlist the help of a doula when she gives birth and had been practicing hypnobirthing. 

READ MORE: Midwives are trialling new ‘delivery bags’ to help improve safety of home births

Who can have a home birth?

According to the NHS you can give birth at home, in a unit run by midwives (a midwifery unit or birth centre) or in hospital.

But your options about where to have your baby will depend on your needs, risks and, to some extent, on where you live.

“If you’re healthy and have no complications (“low risk”) you could consider any of these birth locations. For women with some medical conditions, it’s safest to give birth in hospital, where specialists are available. This is in case you need treatment during labour,” the site explains.

The site goes on to say that women who give birth at home or in a unit run by midwives are less likely to need assistance such as forceps or ventouse (sometimes called instrumental delivery).

Across the UK, the home birth rate is about two per cent of births, or around 1 in 50 births. 

What happens during a home birth? [Photo: Getty]

Benefits of a home birth

According to mother and baby charity Baby Lifeline there are many benefits of a home birth including:

  • A more relaxed birth environment.
  • If your trust has a designated home birth team then this could mean that you have an increased chance of having the same midwife caring for you throughout your pregnancy and in labour. Having the same midwife (referred to as “continuity of carer”) has been shown to be associated with positive birth experiences; such as, fewer interventions like pain relief, and generally feeling safer during labour.
  • For women having a second or subsequent baby, home births and midwifery unit births appear to be safe for the baby and offer benefits for the mother.
  • Women who birth at home have been shown to need less assistance (i.e. the use of forceps, ventouse).

Considerations for a home birth

Baby Lifeline have put together some things to bear in mind if you’re thinking of having a home birth…

  • If it is your first baby, figures suggest you have a higher chance of needing to go into hospital when giving birth at home. This may be for increased pain relief or a prolonged labour, and not necessarily for an emergency.
  • Is your home suitable for a home birth? Some things that your midwife will consider: transfer time into hospital, ability to communicate with the hospital.
  • There is not a guarantee that you will be able to birth at home, even if you are considered low risk and has been planned. This can be dependent upon services in your local area.
  • You will not be able to have an epidural in the home; therefore, if you feel that you will need more than Entonox (gas and air) and other relaxation techniques (i.e. a warm bath), then this is something that should be discussed with your midwife.
  • For women having their first baby, home birth has been shown to slightly increase the risk of the baby having a poor outcome. Around 9 in 1,000 births had a poor outcome in the home compared to 5 in 1,000 births in the hospital.

What will you need for a home birth?

According to Liz Halliday, Deputy Head of Midwifery at Private Midwives your midwife might ask you to gather some basic items like plastic sheeting, towels and absorbent sheets, as well as the usual items you might bring into hospital.

“Your midwife will bring all of her clinical equipment with her, including any emergency equipment and medications that may be required. If you plan to labour or birth in a pool, or have Entonox gas available, this might have been pre-arranged and delivered to you,” says Halliday.

READ MORE: What is a ‘hands off’ birth?

1 in 50 births in the UK are home births [Photo: Getty]

What happens during a home birth?

“Your midwife will discuss the signs of labour and when you should call her,” says Halliday. “They will also discuss any reasons why they might recommend a transfer and how they might handle an emergency situation should one arise.”

Liz says once labour starts, you should call your midwife. “They will attend to your home and provide all of your care during labour and birth.” This includes taking your pulse, blood pressure and temperature, checking your urine, performing abdominal palpations and vaginal examinations, listening in to baby’s heart and supporting you through labour.

Midwives will use a variety of pre-discussed methods and tools such as massage, water, heat, hypnobirthing, movement and distraction techniques. “All of this care is in line with NICE guidelines and is exactly the same as you would receive in hospital. The safety of you and your baby is paramount,” Halliday explains.

“When baby is being born, your midwife will support you to birth safely and gently, minimising any risks of perineal trauma,” Liz continues.  “You will then be encouraged to hold your baby and commence skin to skin cuddles. If you are planning on breastfeeding, your midwife will assist you to latch baby onto the breast.”

READ MORE: Why the Duchess of Sussex ‘could have a home birth’

What happens after the birth?

Halliday says that during the immediate post-partum time, your midwife will keep a close eye on you and baby to make sure everything is normal and will act if they have any concerns.

The next stage is birthing the placenta, either with some medical help (active management) or physiologically.

“You midwife will then assess your perineum for any trauma and advise you on whether stitches are needed or not, and how best to care for yourself in the coming days,” Halliday continues.

Your midwife will then check your baby top to toe, weigh them, and offer an injection of vitamin K which they will give with your consent.

“Once you are both well and the birth is complete, your midwife will help you to shower, change and get comfortable in bed so that you can have some food and enjoy cuddling your new baby,” Halliday says.

“They will clean up and tidy away any equipment, soiled sheeting and possibly even your bathroom!”

“Usually your midwife will leave after a few hours and come back the next day to check that you are ok,” Liz adds.

“They will let you know what is normal and when you should call with any concerns.”