As soon as she announced her pregnancy, Meghan Markle sent the world into overdrive speculating about her birth plans. When, where and how will the next royal baby be born?
We watched (and criticised) Kate as she stood on the steps of St. Mary’s hours after giving birth. The public has come to expect rights to all aspects of the royals inner lives, even when – especially when – there’s a new baby involved.
A recent announcement from Buckingham Palace that Meghan and Prince Harry have taken a “personal decision to keep the plans around the arrival of their baby private” has made a lot of people quite cross about not having access to all the details.
Headlines have screamed ‘birth brat’ and rumours are rife that the next royal baby will be born at home.
If true, Meghan certainly won’t be the first royal mother to give birth at home. Reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth gave birth to all four of her children at home, even Prince Charles who was born by c-section.
While we don’t know for a fact Meghan has chosen to birth at home, there’s no shortage of opinion as to whether it’s the best option. Prevailing wisdom tends to see women retaining control over their birth choices as selfish and hysterical. Especially if those choices don’t fit in with accepted mainstream options.
If Meghan and Harry do decide home is the best place for welcoming their first born into the world, what would it involve?
Choosing a maternity care provider and birth setting should be given the same amount of time and energy as say choosing a wedding venue. Women should be supported to make the best choice for themselves during pregnancy and birth, and in motherhood.
When pregnant with my first baby, I thought a lot about how I wanted to have the best birth experience for me. Note, I didn’t take into consideration what birth meant for anyone else except me, my partner and my baby.
I did the research, looked at the risks and benefits of both hospital and home birth and made an informed choice. I would give birth at home, with midwives I chose to support me through pregnancy and birth.
I was aware of the risks of birthing a first baby at home. I weighed up this risk against the reasons I didn’t want to birth in hospital. I knew my midwives were highly experienced and trained to detect problems early on. I focused on preparing for normal birth and immersed myself in the physiology of labour and birth.
I built a strong and trusting relationship with my care providers. I left nothing in the hands of others, I was prepared to do everything I could to have a positive birth outcome.
And I knew, if I did end up needing to go to hospital, I had empowered myself to make informed choices all the way. A hospital would be because it was necessary, not because it was imposed on me.
Who Can Have A Homebirth?
Options about where to have your baby depend on local regulations, your health and risk and where you live.
In most places, women having a healthy pregnancy and baby can birth at home, if they can access midwives in their area.
Women who birth at home are less likely to experience interventions than women who birth in obstetric settings such as hospitals.
What Are The Benefits of Homebirth?
Research has shown there are many positive benefits to homebirth, particularly when it comes to how a woman feels about her birth experience afterward.
- Less chance of unnecessary procedures such as monitoring and vaginal examinations
- Reduced risk of interventions such as epidurals, forceps and induction
- Lower risk of c-section
- More relaxed environment and more likely to go into labour naturally
- Known care providers, continuous support during pregnancy and labour
- Most positive experience, less likely to experience early parenting struggles
- Breastfeeding is better established and more likely to continue
For more information read Homebirth In Australia – Everything You Need To Know.
What To Know About Homebirth
Birth at home isn’t for everyone. But if you’re considering giving birth at home, her are some things to think about:
- If you having your first baby, you have a slightly higher chance of needing to go to hospital, for pain relief or because of a long labour.
- Make sure your home can accommodate the things you want for a homebirth, such as a birth pool, privacy and so on. Check for accessibility for emergency transport and distance to nearest hospital.
- You can’t access an epidural at home, so ensure you’re comfortable with other more natural techniques for coping with labour.
- First babies born at home have a slightly increased chance of a poorer outcome than second or subsequent babies.
What Do You Need For A Homebirth?
When planning a birth at home, you might like to choose a special room or place where you feel most comfortable.
Don’t be surprised if you end up actually labouring or birthing somewhere else! On the day, you may take against your specially set up birth room and spend the entire time in your bathroom or kitchen.
Your midwives will likely give you a list of things to have prepared. Organise a birth pool and the fittings needed for your taps. Some towels, waterproof sheeting, bed mats, food and drink you like. A bag with necessities backed in case of transfer to hospital is a good idea but also saves your partner or midwives looking for a hair clip or maternity pads.
You midwives will bring their clinical equipment, including any emergency equipment and medications that may be needed.
Why Choose Homebirth?
When I announced I was giving birth at home, there were plenty of people then who told me I was crazy, selfish and stupid. Too much could go wrong and I was risking my life and my baby.
No one encouraged me to think of pregnancy and birth as normal and healthy. I wasn’t told positive birth stories. It was implied I didn’t care about my baby or my own wellbeing. The message was birth is risky and dangerous and the only safe place to have a baby was in a hospital.
But for me, safety was about continuity of care with known health professionals, who knew me well and understood my emotional and physical capabilities. I trusted my midwives to show up for me, and hold me up when I felt I had reached my endurance level.
Safety was about not being told throughout pregnancy how my body could and possible would fail. I felt safe knowing I wouldn’t have to disturb the natural process of labour by going to a busy hospital. Safety was not having to advocate and battle staff and policies while actually in labour.
For me, home birth is less about the location and more about the support and care. Women can and do birth at rental accommodation, caravans, in the woods, in their backyards, or in Meghan’s case, a palace. Wherever they feel most comfortable and places them in the centre of their care.
In Australia the UK and the US, home birth accounts for 2% or less of births. If home birth is so rare, why do women choose it?
The answer varies depending on each woman. Some want to avoid interventions, others want to choose their own midwife, others again are survivors of trauma and want to avoid that again. There are women who can’t stand the thought of travelling in a car while having contractions and others that haven’t got anyone to mind the older children.
The why is only important to the woman who is doing the birthing.
As her safety and comfort are key components of having a positive birth, where she chooses to labour and birth has a massive impact. This is one aspect about labour and birth many people choose to ignore.
Environment can affect how labour unfolds. Any perceived hostility, danger or threat can interfere with birth at a very primal level. At our base, humans are mammals and our ability to give birth successfully for millennia depended on our ability to feel safe when doing so.
There are women who, in order to feel safe, want to know medical assistance is at their fingertips. Everyone has a point of something in between that. For me, and perhaps for Meghan, safety means having a known care provider and the comfort of home. We should support all choices for women and respect them.