Home Births are on the Rise in Ireland and It’s About Time!
You don’t need to be a sage-burning hippy to have a home birth. More and more expectant families in Ireland are seeing the value in birthing their babies at home- no crystal grids, essential oils or birthing under a tree required. Unless that is your jam of course!
The reality is families choose home birth for many different reasons, which may include the following:
They want to birth in an environment that feels comfortable and safe, both physically and emotionally. There’s nothing quite like preparing your own home for meeting your baby. You can customise your space much more easily than a hospital antenatal ward and labour room.
They hope for a more gentle birth experience. This may mean fewer interruptions, fewer people watching them labour, a dimly lit birth space, etc.
They may want to limit medical interventions
A desire to labour or birth in water. Currently having a water birth is not permitted at any hospital that I am aware of in Ireland. Although various hospitals have a labour pool, there is often a long list of restrictions. You are also not guaranteed use of the pool because someone may be in it already when you arrive in admissions.
They value continuous one-to-one care with an experienced midwife. This midwife has antenatal sessions with them, attends their birth and follows up postnatally as well. A secondary midwife also attends the labour.
Some families would rather not travel during the height of labour to a hospital, which may be more than an hour away.
They value the ability to have whomever they want at their birth. There is no limit to one support person + a birth doula like there is in many hospitals. Some hospitals who allow only one support person essentially force expectant mothers to choose between their own partner or a birth doula for support- this I find completely unacceptable and I’m not afraid to voice that opinion.
Some families do not have reliable child minding options so having their older child(ren) at home with them while they labour is ideal. I have found this to be the case with many families who have immigrated to Ireland.
Following birth, families can bond with their baby in their own home and snuggle up in their own bed if they desire. I found this particularly lovely following my own two home births. I could also have visitors if and when I wanted- no visiting hours to abide by.
There are several different options for home birth services in Ireland. Essentially parents can choose to go public or private. Those going public can access the home birth service through a hospital or by contacting a self-employed community midwife (SECM). The public option comes with more restrictions, however. For example, a mother hoping for a vaginal birth after a caesarean (VBAC) is automatically disqualified because she would not be considered a low risk patient by current HSE guidelines. Private midwifery lead care provides the greatest level of freedom and choice in the opinion of many parents. Your medical history (like a prior caesarean) or current health circumstances (being GBS+, having gestational diabetes, a high BMI, etc.) would be less likely to exclude you from private home birth care. The company currently providing private midwifery lead care in County Limerick is Private Midwives Ireland. If you are thinking of your finances as you consider this service, keep in mind that many private health insurance providers will cover a large portion of private midwife-lead care.
I think it’s also worth noting that you can have a home birth even if you’re expecting your first baby. Many parents believe this isn’t an option for some reason, but there’s no reason why your first birth experience can’t be at home! More expectant families are enquiring about home births and advocating for this option in their area. Sadly, access to public and private midwifery lead care is not universal across the entire Republic of Ireland, although coverage is expanding! As more families request this type of service, it is hoped more options will become available.
If you have questions regarding public or private home birth options in your area, I encourage you to reach out to birth workers in your area or AIMS Ireland.