The Home Birth Checklist

Hot Water and Towels

In old movies you would always hear someone shout ‘get hot water and towels’ when a person was in labour, it has been debated as to what the hot water and towels were actually for! Perhaps to occupy the least useful person and get them out of the way, or maybe towels to mop up and hot (boiling) water to sterilise things.

Interestingly things really haven’t changed that much and in a recent poll asking local home birthing families what items they would recommend for a home birth, both old towels and a birthing pool made it to the top of the list! (See below for the full list).

Lets go back to the beginning though, you might be wondering what do you actually need to give birth at home and how much mess will there be? Contrary to popular belief home births are not actually that messy. The midwives take away the majority of waste with them and some mums have even said that the odd stain on a sheet or towel has washed out.

The first thing to consider is what sort of birth would you like? Where do you envisage giving birth? This might seem like a strange concept to someone who has already experienced a hospital birth but really, one of the biggest positives of giving birth in your home is that you get to set the rules!

Birthing on Dry Land

This might involve giving birth; over a birthing ball, on all fours, on a birthing stool, leaning on your birth partner, sat in your birth partner’s lap, knelt on a bed, on all fours on a bed, leaning over a bed…. and the list goes on, really anything goes.

A good way to prepare for this is to have some old sheets on the floor, furniture and bed, don’t forget you might change your mind part way through giving birth so it’s a good idea to be prepared.

On our sofa I laid plastic decorating sheets and then over that an old bed sheet that I didn’t mind chucking at the end. I ended up delivering the placenta here and this set up was perfect, the only clear up here was to bundle everything into a waste bag that the midwives took away with them.

On our bed I followed advice to make it up as usual, then lay inco pads or put on a plastic sheet on and on top of that old bedding/sheets. This means that following the birth the old sheets and inco padding can be stripped away and disposed of and your bed is already made underneath.

Water Birth

If you would like to have a water birth it’s a good idea to plan well in advance where you will get your pool from. Some people like to buy a brand new pool, others look for second hand ones on selling sites or alternatively you can hire one. The hired ones book up fast so don’t leave it too late! Even if you buy a new one you will need to buy a new liner for it and possibly a new filling hose.

Some people say that with a new pool a liner isn’t necessary but believe me, the clean up is so much easier if you can throw away the debris with the liner! This also makes it easier to sell the pool on!

If hiring a pool it might be worth looking at a package, for a small amount extra I was able to hire a pool cover, birthing ball, birthing stool and a TENS machine from the same place.

When setting up the pool, it’s best to have tarpaulin underneath, I bought a few inexpensive sheets from our local Boyes and it was perfect for the job! I have heard that some people use shower curtains, but just be careful as some aren’t fully water resistant. On top of the tarpaulin I had a yoga mat so the floor wasn’t slippy for me or the midwives!

Before the birth it’s recommended to do a full pool run through, this ensures that your tap connecters work, there are no punctures and you can also get an idea of how long it takes to inflate and fill a pool! Don’t leave it too late to do this, our run through was exactly 5 hours before my waters broke!

Filling your Pool

We had a horrendous time with the universal tap connectors as they just weren’t universal enough for our taps!! Our taps were old so none would unscrew and I was beginning to envisage my partner traipsing back and forth with buckets.

After a bit of YouTubing I found an American man who had connected a hose pipe to his shower head, so the next day heavily pregnant me was stood in a plumbing shop trying to explain why I wanted to connect a garden hose to my shower!

Connecting the hose to the shower worked a treat but just be mindful that your shower may have a thermostat on it, this meant that we needed to top up the pool with water from the kettle to get it to temperature.

Just a word of warning, I have seen on home birth pages people suggesting using the pump that comes with your rented pool to siphon water from the bath or a sink into your pool. It’s likely that the pump has already been used to empty the waste water following a birth and because the inside of a pump cannot be sterilised, this method is not recommended.

What else is needed?

Think about what birth environment you would like, someone famously once said that the perfect environment for a baby to be born is similar to the one it was conceived in.

Think low lighting, candles, soft music, home comforts, snacks, aromatherapy oils etc, as said before, this is your home and your birth so pretty much anything goes! Also, don’t forget to stock up on tea bags, drinks and snacks for the midwives!

What do the midwives bring?

Depending on where you live, some midwives may bring a birthing bag or box to your house in the weeks leading up to your birth. Locally people are asked to collect their home birth equipment box from the hospital. In other areas midwives might bring their equipment with them on the day. Ask your community midwife what the process is near you. Equipment may include;

  • Monitoring equipment (Sphyg, Thermometer, Doppler – check the midwives have a waterproof cover if using a birth pool)
  • Resuscitation equipment
  • Suturing equipment
  • Oxytocics (for during placenta delivery and in case of heavy bleeding, only if required)
  • Adrenaline (in case of allergic reaction)
  • Vitamin K (check with midwives if you would prefer oral over injection)
  • General Obstetrics equipment
  • Gloves (sterile and non sterile – mention to midwives if you have a latex allergy)
  • Bags for the placenta and other waste (tell the midwives if you wish to keep the placenta)
  • Scales to weigh baby
  • Gas and Air.

Anything we’ve forgotten?

Here’s the rest of the list from our poll of local home birthing women:

  1. Old Towels
  2. Birthing Pool
  3. Tap Connector / Adapter
  4. A Jug (to measure urinary output before the midwives leave)
  5. Candles
  6. A Sieve / Debris Net
  7. Hose
  8. Birthing Ball
  9. Refreshments for Midwives
  10. Food
  11. TENS Machine
  12. Inco / Puppy Pads
  13. Hypnobirthing Book & CD
  14. Aromatherapy Oils
  15. A Birth Plan (including Breastfeeding Support Contacts)
  16. Old Sheets
  17. Drinks (straws are also helpful)
  18. Music
  19. Phone App to Time Contractions (or pen and paper)
  20. Bin Bags
  21. Birthing Stool
  22. Doula
  23. Affirmation Board
  24. Sign on the Front Door (do not disturb)
  25. Fan
  26. Camera

You will also need the following. Don’t skimp on the maternity pads! I almost ran out before I had given birth because I didn’t realise that when your waters go they carry on leaking!

Taken from North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust’s Guide

It’s worth adding that some home birthing mums prefer not to pack an overnight bag, personally I did pack one so I knew everything was in one place, this made it easier for my partner too. It doesn’t have to be an overnight bag though, you could always use a box or a shopping bag.

Read some local Home Birth Stories >>>>> Here!

Updated 9 March 2020