During covid times it became standard practice to cancel homebirth services due to staffing levels. There wasn’t much logic behind this at the time given that this funnelled many healthy women into hospital, but it was accepted by many. This seems to have continued, with women being told weeks before their due date that there are staff shortages and there might not be a midwife available when she goes into labour. Or that she can only have a home birth during the day time Monday to Friday. This is simply unacceptable and has the desired effect of putting women off planning a homebirth for fear of the unknown. For women choosing homebirth because it is the only place they can meet all of their basic needs for birth, it is a HUGE compromise to leave your home during labour, so don’t be persuaded to do so by staffing levels or uncertainty.
Stop hoping, start planning.Hoping for a homebirth is pointless. It means that you are not putting anything in place to make it happen, but you’re relying on external factors to make it happen, but those external factors want you to give birth in hospital because logistically it’s easier for them. So hoping will not be enough. If giving birth at home is important to you for any reason, then plan it.
Don’t wait for permission.Lots of women are told by midwives that they can discuss their birth place at 36 or even 38 weeks. Don’t wait for them to bring it up – just tell them. This gives them plenty of time to put staff in place for around your guess date.
Get really comfortable with the reasons you are choosing to give birth at homeThose reasons don’t change based on staffing levels. You don’t have to explain these reasons to anyone else, but it’s important to remind yourself of these reasons often, particularly at times where your options seem to be being limited. Does the fact that there is no midwife available change the reasons you want to give birth at home? It’s also worth considering what giving birth in hospital would be like with a shortage of staff – where would you rather be?
Learn and practise the broken record trick.If you decide that you do want a midwife present at your homebirth, you call them when the time comes and they tell you that nobody is available, you can repeat a basic script: “I’m in labour and I’d like a midwife to come out to me. I won’t be coming into the hospital.”
Plan for a freebirth.Plan for there not being a midwife available when you go into labour. What does that look like for you? What support can you put in place? Does this actually change anything for you? What did you actually want a midwife for and how can you fill that gap in other ways? What are your fears? For many, the idea of having a midwife at their birth is just a given (as in, without any thought) because it’s just the done thing, so they have no idea what they actually want from a midwife. For others, they want a midwife present “just in case”, presumably just in case a true medical emergency arises which is very unlikely, and in such a scenario a midwife would call an ambulance. You also have the power to call an ambulance. If you remember that birth is a normal bodily function, just like your other bodily functions, then the idea of doing it in your private space, without any strangers makes a lot of sense. Once you’re okay with this as an option then your birth plans are no longer at the mercy of medical professionals – the uncertainty suddenly disappears.
How can we support you?
If you want to talk to us about planning your homebirth with or without a midwife, or air out any fears that come up for you at the thought of freebirthing, you can book a holding space session online with us here.
If you’d like to connect with other women who have given birth without a midwife, either intentionally or because there wasn’t one available, feel free to come along to our community groups which you can find here.
Don’t wait for permission to book a birth pool if you’re thinking of a home water birth, our booking deadline is 30 weeks. Find out more here.