How to Prepare for a Home Birth
Are you pregnant and want to prepare yourself for a homebirth?
First, Congratulations! It’s awesome that you’re looking into all of the options available to you when it comes to your birth!
When I first got pregnant, I thought that going to the hospital was the only option. I’m so grateful that I learned about other options for my second baby and was able to have a peaceful & calm labor outside of a hospital.
Why Choose a Home Birth?
Home births are growing in popularity for many reasons. Giving birth in the comfort of your own home, surrounded by a birth team that you trust, is much more likely to result in a calm, joyful birth without complications.
Being surrounded by bright lights, beeping machines, and lots of people that you don’t know can stall labor, making it much more difficult for you to have your baby, and much easier to fall into the spiral of medical interventions.
In some rural regions where hospitals aren’t close by, home births are the more popular choice! If there aren’t many hospitals around, or it’s going to take over an hour to get to one, it makes sense that women are preparing for home births more often.
In city areas, emergency home births are rare – but they do happen! If labor happens too quickly, you may not have even 15 minutes to pack up and get to a hospital or birthing center.
Regardless of where you want to give birth, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of home birth just in case you have no choice but to deliver your child at home.
Having a stress-free, joyful, and pleasant birth experience is (even more) possible at home, even without particular things that a birth center or hospital offers.
Here is a list of important steps to take so that you can have the safe and empowering home birth that you desire.
Take Natural Childbirth Education Classes
The purpose of childbirth education is to prepare women for birth and teach them pain management techniques that they will need throughout labor and birth.
Gone are the days when a woman’s only option was to attend Lamaze classes and “hee-hee-hoo-hoo” breathe her way through labor. (Did you know this is actually a TERRIBLE way to breathe during labor?!)
There are now tons of online birthing classes that teach a calm, peaceful, and natural way to birth your baby. Childbirth education has also expanded to include instructions for a healthy pregnancy, labor, delivery, newborn care, and adjustment to family life with a baby.
You can start taking natural childbirth education classes as soon as you become pregnant – or even before! It will take some time to “unlearn” everything you know about childbirth and learn how powerful, intuitive, and capable your body is of bringing a human into this world.
I started taking natural childbirth classes around 28 weeks, and then I watched all of the training videos again in my third trimester so that the information was top of mind as I got closer to meeting my baby.
Some of my favorite classes are:
Pain Free Birth by Karen Welton
Give Birth on Your Terms by Aurora Midwifery
Your Best Birth by Thrive Pelvic Health & Wellness
You can also ask your chosen Midwife and Doula if they have any classes that they teach, or recommend to their clients – which brings us to the next important step in having a homebirth:
Hire a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and Doula for Childbirth
Most women are familiar with an OB/GYN, but if you’re choosing a home birth, you’ll most likely want to find & hire a midwife that specializes in home births.
I also recommend hiring a Doula. If you don’t know what a Doula is, don’t worry, I didn’t know until I was pregnant with my second baby!
A Doula is someone who is by the mother’s side throughout labor to support the MOM! Everyone (including the mom in labor) is mostly focused on the baby being born, so it’s essential to have someone with you that is only focused on you.
Doulas are also great for dads & birthing partners. It takes the mental pressure off of your parner, so that they can truly be there to support you, hold you, say your birth mantras and affirmations to you.
My husband did great supporting me during the birth of our daughter, but he is our doula’s #1 Fan! He was very happy that he had another person there to help us through it!
I am so grateful to our Doula for reminding me to breathe through contractions, breathing with me, making the low sounds that helped eliminate pain with me, putting counter-pressure on my back, walking with me, keeping me smiling (Yes! Smiling!) through labor. I credit her with a lot of reasons that my labor was painless.
I’ve found that the best way to hire a midwife and doula is by word-of-mouth recommendations. Women who love their birth team will be happy to recommend them to other pregnant women.
You can also do an internet search for Midwives or Doulas near you. It is best to meet with them prior to deciding where you will give birth, to make sure they can be there with you every step of the way.
I have found two amazing birth worker groups near me (Whole Women’s Collective and Cherry Blossom Doula), and I’m sure there are a few near you, too!
When you’re looking for a Midwife or Doula, make sure to interview them fully to make sure their mindset and goals for your birth match your desires. It’s a good idea to talk to a few different providers before you make your decision to hire one.
If you’ve already created a birth plan, be sure to share it with the birth workers that you’re considering hiring! They can also help explain the natural birthing process, and offer suggestions of options for your birth plan that you haven’t thought of yet.
Here are some example questions to ask your Midwife & Doula:
- What is the Prenatal Care Schedule
- What support do they offer outside of appointments (such as mom meetup groups, virtual or online meetings, postpartum groups, etc.)
- What to eat during pregnancy
- Which prenatal vitamins, herbs, or teas to use
- What Risk Assessments will they perform
- What Lab Testing do they require
- What are the Costs/Fees and any Insurance questions
- What to expect during labor and birth
- What supplies you’ll need to gather for a homebirth
- What supplies they will bring for your homebirth
- When they should be called to attend your homebirth
- Breastfeeding support and IBCLC recommendations
I recommend you hire a certified professional midwife (CPM) and a Doula who will both care for you during your pregnancy and beyond. They provide the most amazing guidance during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum.
You can even hire a postpartum doula to help with childcare, cooking, household responsibilities, and anything else you’ll need in the postpartum period! #LifeChanging
I would recommend meeting your prospective birth team in person and make sure to talk to everyone involved if you’re working with a collective team. You’ll want to know that you get along with everyone who could possibly be attending your birth.
You may also like: Birth Preferences Printable
Prepare your Home for Birth
When you’re laboring at home, you’ll be moving around quite a bit. This is one of the aspects of birth that is so different from the hospital or anything you see on TV. You can – and should! – move around during labor.
You’ll want to change positions, eat food to give yourself energy, try standing in the shower, laying the bath, even laboring on the toilet helps a lot of moms.
Since you’ll be moving during labor, you’ll want to make sure that all of those areas are clean and free of clutter that could get in the way. The last thing you want to do when you’re in labor is be cleaning up the floor so you can walk around!
You’ll also need to make certain that any place you intend on meeting your child is a nice, warm room. Your baby has been snuggled up in a nice warm womb their whole lives so far, you’ll want them to stay nice and warm once they are born, too!
Your midwife and doula should be able to bring all of the necessary medical supplies that they’ll need during your labor and birth, and give you a list of household items to have ready. I made sure to have lots of clean towels and wash cloths, a tarp for under the birthing tub and drinking water hose to fill the tub up, and postpartum supplies for myself.
One of the best pieces of advice I received when I was pregnant was to make sure the freezer was prepared with meals. Making meals ahead of time and then being able to throw them in the oven for a quick & easy dinner was a life saver for our family.
We also made bags of soup ingredients and froze them. Then we just had to put them in the crock pot in the morning to have a nice warm and soothing dinner ready for us at night.
Setting up a Meal Train is another great way to make sure you have food after giving birth. Our friends and family nearby brought us home cooked meals, and those farther away gave us gift certificates to restaurants we liked and to meal delivery services. You can set up a Meal Train for free on their website: https://www.mealtrain.com/
Prepare Yourself Mentally for a Homebirth
I believe that this is the most important step to having a pain-free, calm, homebirth.
If you truly believe in yourself, and believe that it is possible to have a stress free, easy birth, it’s going to be much easier to achieve that in the moment.
Natural Birth Affirmations
Look up some birthing affirmations and repeat them to yourself daily.
Write them on your bathroom mirror, or place them on sticky notes around your house.
The more confident you are in your ability to have an empowering home birth, the more likely it is to happen!
To mentally prepare yourself for childbirth, make sure you spend a lot of time during pregnancy relaxing your mind and body.
There are wonderful guided meditations for pregnancy on the Insight Timer App (it’s free!) and a lot of Hypnobirthing and Calm Birth videos on YouTube that can be very helpful.
Deep Breathing Exercises
It’s also important to practice long and deep breaths while focusing on your pelvic floor muscles relaxing and expanding as you exhale.
Women feel pain during labor when they get scared, because their muscles tense up, and their body essentially fights the contractions. The more you understand what is happening in your body to bring your baby to you, the easier it is to be fully immersed in the moment and not fight the natural birthing process.
If you are mentally prepared to welcome the oncoming contractions, and know how to breathe through them with deep breaths and long, low vocalizations, you will be able to have contractions without feeling pain.
Exercising during Pregnancy
Maintaining a safe exercise routine during pregnancy is another way to help your body and mind stay clear and get prepared for the marathon that childbirth can be.
My labors were only 13 and 11 hours, and I was exhausted afterwards! But then you hold your baby and get a rush of hormones that make you forget everything you just went through!
Ahh, the joys of being a mom.
Managing your stress during pregnancy is also very important. The amount of stress you’re under and the way you respond to it can affect the development of the baby.
Life will never be completely stress-free, but learning to incorporate mindfulness and releasing the need to control everything will help you to be as stress-free as possible.
Here are some recommendations for books that can help:
If you are feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed, be sure to talk to your midwife and doula about it. They can also offer ways to help you feel better.
Understand Different Labor Positions
The conventional labor position – lying to your back – actually places stress on the pelvic nerves and can result in increased pain.
The only reason this labor position was made popular is because it was easier for the doctor to see what was going on down there. I don’t know about you, but my doctor’s comfort level isn’t my number 1 priority while I’m giving birth…
Change Positions during Labor
You can practice different positions like The Miles Circuit before you go into labor so that you’re familiar with these positions by the time you go into labor. These positions are helpful for getting the baby in an ideal position for birth.
It’s really beneficial to change positions throughout labor because your body may naturally relax more in certain positions. I tend to sleep on my left side, so that is where my body is most naturally relaxed. (I ended up giving birth to my second baby in this position.)
A lot of women prefer to give birth kneeling on their hands and knees, or even in a squatting position. You will be able to tell which position is most comfortable for you, and it will change as your labor progresses.
Your midwife and doula will be able to guide you through different positions during your labor. It’s important to know that at some points they may need you to move to positions that aren’t the most comfortable because that will help the baby descend or change positions.
During my third labor, my baby was not descending and labor had stalled for hours. When the contractions started again, I followed the advice of my birthing team and did so. many. different. positions.
Some positions were okay and some felt really awful, but all of them were necessary. My doula said that my willingness to dig deep and get into all of the different positions was why I was able to bring my baby earth side at home.
This is why it is important to hire someone that you are comfortable with, that you trust, and that has the same goals for your birth as you do. You will want someone that you can listen to easily, because when you’re in active labor you won’t be able to think logically and advocate for yourself as well.
Stay Relaxed and Confident During Labor
Giving birth is the most natural process there is, but we should also prepare for it as much as we can.
Your body is more able to relax in a calm environment that has been prepared specifically for giving birth. When you choose to have a home birth, you’re already ahead of the game because you are familiar and comfortable with the area.
When you’re relaxed, your body can produce hormones more easily – including oxytocin and endorphins. This is “nature’s epidural” and can help ease the pain of childbirth just as well as any medication.
Set up your birthing space with candles that have relaxing scents – stick to natural or essential oil-scented candles so that the scent isn’t overwhelming.
It’s a good idea to use this candle prior to labor while you take a bath or nap so that your body associates that smell with relaxation.
Music for Labor
Create a calming playlist that you can listen to while you’re in labor. You can also have someone record your favorite birth affirmations for you, so that you can listen to those.
I had someone very dear to my heart make a hypnobirthing recording for me, and it was so helpful during labor! I was able to get lost in the affirmations and feel completely tuned in to the labor process.
When you’re giving birth at your own home, you have complete control over the environment. Set it up in the way that feels the best to you, and enjoy being in your safe, serene birthing space!
Main Takeaways for Busy Mamas
- Know your options and choose the birth experience that is most empowering for you
- Take natural childbirth classes – and then run through them again in your last trimester so the information is fresh in your mind. These are my favorites:
- Pain Free Birth by Karen Welton
- Give Birth on Your Terms by Aurora Midwifery
- Your Best Birth by Thrive Pelvic Health & Wellness
- Hire a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) and Doula for Childbirth
- Prepare your home – clean, make freezer meals, create a relaxing environment
- Prepare yourself mentally for a homebirth – read about natural birth, practice birth affirmations, exercise safely, and eat well
- Understand different labor positions – and practice them before you go into labor
- Stay relaxed and confident during labor – cultivate your birthing space, get your body used to relaxing to a certain candle scent, listen to a labor music playlist
If you have any questions about natural birth, or any suggestions on other ways to prepare for a homebirth, please leave a comment below!