When I was planning a home birth for my first baby, one of the first questions asked was ‘What about the mess?’
Interestingly, this was a question that had also crossed my own mind. I didn’t really know what to expect, as it was my first birth. I knew there had to be some mess, so I asked my midwife.
It wasn’t until I was actually in labour, and dealing with leaking amniotic fluid, mucus plug, and membranes that I was glad to be so prepared!
Birth can be a little messy – no matter where you are when the baby is born. But each woman’s labour is unique, so no one can predict exactly how much mess there will be!
How Messy Is A Home Birth?
Having a baby at home doesn’t mean you are going to be down on your hands and knees the next day scrubbing stains out of your carpet!
Here are 9 ways to minimise the mess at home.
#1: Choose A Birth Space
If you are giving birth in a hospital, you are usually allocated a birth suite that includes a bathroom. The floors aren’t carpeted and the bathroom is completely tiled, so if there are splashes and so on, the room can literally be hosed down.
At home, most women choose a certain place they will gravitate to during labour and birth. This makes it easier to keep mess to a minimum.
#2: How Many Towels?
Ask your friends and family for old towels they no longer want, or hit your local charity shop. Towels are great to cover your floor, bed, couch, or anything you want to protect.
If you’re in and out of the birth pool or shower, you will need plenty on hand, so you won’t have to worry about drying the ones you’ve used.
Put towels on the floor of the shower so you don’t slip; fold them, to kneel on; use them to cover yourself if you’re cold…the list is endless.
#3: Maternity Pads
These are on your post-birth necessity list, but they also come in handy if your waters break early, or your mucus plug starts coming away. It can be a tad uncomfortable to have fluid leaking down your leg, and it can make sitting on a birth ball feel really ick!
If you are in early labour and want to keep moving, especially through contractions, having a maternity pad on will protect your heirloom rug or your lovely cream couch!
#4: Cover Everything
You might not be absolutely sure where you will be when you labour and give birth. So look around and put away any items that can be moved, and cover those that can’t.
Waterproof covers are a good idea – for your mattress, in case your waters break in the middle of the night, or for the couch, if you want to lie down at any point during labour.
If you don’t have any non-carpeted spaces, you can put tarpaulins on the floor – especially useful if you have a birth pool and don’t want a soggy carpet. Even plastic shower curtains or tablecloths can be pulled into use.
#5: Get Organised
It pays to sort out in advance what’s going where, so you don’t accidentally throw out the towels and wash the disposable gloves!
Take some large garbage bags and label them ‘rubbish’ or ‘washing’ – so your birth team knows where to put things once they’re used. Washing bags can go straight into the laundry (or the washing machine), and rubbish bags out to the bin.
Have a box with all the items you might need, so everyone can find them quickly, rather than rummage around in cupboards or drawers, and then put them back afterwards. That way you aren’t left to deal with everything strewn around later on.
#6. Have Back Up Plans
During my second home birth, hot water from our main system ran out before the birth pool was filled, and the hot water system in the ensuite went on the blink! Between sudden and very intense contractions I was trying to direct everyone where to find kettles and pots for heating water, so they could finish filling the birth pool!
If you are planning a water birth, or using your shower for any length of time, make sure you have contingency plans for heating water, getting water to the pool (long enough hoses, the right connectors, and spares), keeping water hot, and preventing water from getting everywhere.
Sometimes labouring women are hit with the urge to vomit. Have a few bowls or tubs close by; it keeps the mess to a minimum, and saves your birth team from scrambling about to find something suitable. You definitely don’t want anyone grabbing your grandmother’s antique soup tureen in an emergency!
You will also need something for the placenta, as the midwives will want to inspect it, and you might have decided to keep it, or have it encapsulated. A tub with a lid, such as a used ice cream container, is a great idea, especially if the placenta needs to be refrigerated.
#8: Keep Spares Handy
If you are labouring or giving birth on your bed, you won’t want to snuggle up with your new baby on anything less than fresh sheets. Keep spare bed linen nearby, or make the bed, put waterproof covers down, and then cover them with linen that can be stripped off afterwards and put straight in the wash.
Spare knickers, clothes, or wash cloths should be within easy reach, in case you get fluid, blood etc on your clothes and want to change. Anything for the laundry goes in the bag marked ‘washing’!
#9: Prep Your Team
If your partner has the job of organising everything, make a list together, and have a practice run-through. Decide where you will be when you give birth, and then work from there.
Your midwife will accommodate you as much as possible in keeping mess to a minimum, and will often help tidy up afterwards.