For some mums-to-be, giving birth in their own familiar environment, accompanied by a midwife, feel like the safest and most obvious option.
Homebirths (‘accouchement à domicile’ / ‘thuisbevalling’) currently account for around 1% of births in Belgium, and the Brussels area is relatively well served by independent English-speaking midwives offering homebirths, notably Zwanger in Brussel and Bolle Buik.
To be able to give birth at home, you need to meet certain criteria:
- you must live within 30 minutes drive of a hospital – this is in case you need to be transferred to hospital if your midwife feels it’s safer for you and your baby
- homebirth is not recommended if you are expecting more than one baby, or for a Vaginal Birth After Caesarean (VBAC)
Otherwise, provided that by the end of your pregnancy:
- the pregnancy has progressed normally and you and your baby are healthy
- you have reached term (37 – 42 weeks)
- your baby is in the ‘head down’ position
a homebirth should be possible.
Antenatal care for a planned homebirth
If you are planning to give birth at home, you independent midwife will provide most of your care during your pregnancy (read more about the role of the independent midwife).
However, some consultations with a gynaecologist are also recommended. Talk to your midwife about this.
You should also choose a hospital in the event that, at the end of your pregnancy, a homebirth is not possible, or in case you need to be transferred to hospital during labour.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, your independent midwife will decide whether a homebirth is still advisable.
What will the midwife bring with her to the birth?
Your midwife will bring with her a homebirth kit that contains many of the same items available in hospital, including sterile equipment, a doppler to listen to your baby’s heartbeat, a bulb to remove mucous from your baby’s nose after the birth, equipment to place a drip if needed, equipment to perform local anasthesia and suturing, resuscitation equipment etc.
She will also ask you to prepare various items that may be needed during labour and birth.
What do I have to prepare myself?
Your midwife will provide you with a detailed list of the items you will need to prepare for the birth. This will include items such as a mattress protector for your bed, some plastic sheeting to protect the floor (a new shower curtain works well!), a portable heater with extension cord etc.
You will also need to prepare items for your baby.
Even if you plan to give birth at home, there is a possibility that you may need to be transferred to hospital if the midwife feels it’s safer for you and your baby. Therefore you should also prepare a bag to bring with you to the hospital containing items for yourself and your baby. Ask your midwife for a suggested packing list.
What happens when?
Once labour is well established, you call your midwife and she will come to your home. When the birth is imminent, a second midwife comes, and both midwives stay with you for the birth of your baby.
After the birth, a midwife will stay with you for another two hours or so (or longer if you feel the need), to make sure that you and your baby are well and that breastfeeding has started successfully, before leaving you to enjoy your new family.
What if there is a complication?
Labour and birth can be unpredictable, and if for any reason your midwife feels that the birth is becoming risky, she can decide to transfer you to hospital.
This is why one of the criteria for having a home birth is that you live within 30 minutes drive of a hospital.
Can I have a waterbirth at home?
See Birth > Where can I give birth? > Waterbirth for more information.