Home is where the birth is ...

With more women avoiding maternity units, Fiona Dillon looks at the alternative of home births

Charlotte Church has spoken out about the benefits of giving birth in her own home. Photo: Getty Images

Fiona Dillon

A growing number of celebrities are opting to give birth at home, mirroring a choice being made by many Irish mums-to-be.

Welsh singer Charlotte Church (24), who has two children Ruby (3) and Dexter (2) has spoken out about the benefits of giving birth in her own home.

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen (30) gave birth at home to baby Benjamin last year. "Not for one second did it cross my mind that I was not going to have my baby at home," she says. "I am not the first person to give birth naturally. Billions of other women have come before me."

Television presenter Davina McCall (43) said she decided to have a home birth for her three children after hearing a friend talk positively about her experience.

Of course, it doesn't always go to plan -- X Factor judge Dannii Minogue (39) had planned a home birth but ended up having her son Ethan, now aged seven months, in hospital.

The Home Birth Association of Ireland, which gives support and advice to women who are considering a home birth, says there are many reasons why women choose to do so.

Deb Davis (44), who lives in Delgany, Co Wicklow, gave birth to Reuben nearly three weeks ago at home. When she had her eldest son Nathan (11), he was also a home birth. “I never, ever envisaged myself being in a hospital to give birth,” says Deb. She says her first home birth was “fantastic, all I had wished for”.

And Reuben's birth, on January 27, was also a very positive experience. Deb says that she went into labour at 1.30am and was holding her newborn baby three hours later.

Deb can testify to the benefits of giving birth in a “relaxed, trusting, supportive environment”. She says that the room had been set up beautifully for the birth and was attended by an independent midwife. She also had a birthing pool.

She and her partner Michael Reidy are “over the moon” with the new arrival. Deb has had a lot of experience of births through her work as a doula (a person who provides non-medical support during labour and birth).

Meanwhile, Corinne McLoughlin (34) who lives in Bray, Co Wicklow, gave birth to a girl, Nura, nearly four weeks ago. She did have her older son, Oisin (two), in hospital, but she decided she wanted a home birth the second time round. She looked at the Domino scheme at Holles Street, but she found that she couldn't have a home birth under the scheme because her house was situated outside the catchment area. Corinne and her husband,

Kevin, then found an independent midwife. When it came to the birth on January 19, Corinne says: “My waters broke at 1.30am. I didn't want to call the midwife too early. I got up at around 2am and the pains started at around 2.30am. I had no idea how long the labour would be. At 6.30am I decided it was time to call her.”

Corinne went to have a shower. “When I got out I felt like the baby was already coming because I felt the urge to start pushing. I realised the baby was coming. I shouted for my husband and he came running upstairs. I was very calm,” says Corinne.


Her husband rang the midwife who was en route, and Kevin got help and advice. Kevin then delivered his baby girl. “After a few seconds, she let out this big cry,” Corinne said. The midwife, who heard the cry, told Kevin to put the baby on her mummy's tummy and wrap them in towels and blankets. Her midwife arrived shortly afterwards, and helped Kevin cut the cord. Little Nura weighed in at a bouncing 6lbs 11oz and is doing very well.

A growing number of women have been choosing home births over the past 10 years. They have done their research and know they may not be in control of their birth in a hospital, according to Krysia Lynch, of the Home Birth Association of Ireland.

There are a variety of reasons why women choose a home birth, says Krysia: “You get second-time mums who have had a difficult experience in hospital for the first baby.”

In addition, mums who have had a very fast delivery and live in a rural area can sometimes choose a home birth. They are happier having a midwife come to their house rather than run the risk of delivering the baby in the car on the way to hospital.

Others would take the view that giving birth is a natural process that doesn’t require a hospital setting. Home birthing is also sought by women who want somebody to be present at the birth for support apart from their partner, for instance a doula or acupuncturist, which is generally not allowed by hospitals.

Some women want to have a baby in water, and while some hospitals facilitate labour in birth pools, none of the hospitals facilitate birthing in water.

“A lot of mums would say the post natal care is one of the reasons they choose to have the baby at home,” saysKrysia, with midwives doing postnatal visits at home, offering tips to first-time mums on bathing and breastfeeding.

Krysia says that, with maternity hospitals overstretched, women choose home births because “they feel they are not going to be given interventions that they don’t need to speed them up because someone else needs the bed”.

The Association holds montly meetings throughout the country to advise women on how to go about organising a home birth. “We would talk about the different midwives that are available in the different areas,” says Krysia.

Community midwives are attached to hospitals while self-employed community midwives work on their own.

Those who opt for a home birth through a hospital-run scheme will not have to pay for it. If a woman engages a self-employed community midwife it is also free and the HSE pays them directly. However, this includes a limited number of visits, and most midwives offer additional visits that the parents will have to pay for.

In terms of pain relief for women, there are a variety of coping mechanisms, including using a birth pool, TENS machines and deep massage.