Jane’s Water Birth in the UK

I got pregnant with baby #1 in 2004 and in the UK you do not need an OB at all unless there are serious complications during your pregnancy or labor.

I saw my family physician to inform him that I was pregnant, but then was immediately put under the care of the practice midwife as is the norm over there.  I had to go to the local hospital at 12 weeks for a confirmation of pregnancy/due date scan and again at 20 weeks for a detailed scan, but all other appointments were with my midwife.

My actual labor itself was 15 hours, which I don’t think is too bad for a first child.  We got to the hospital at midnight and I delivered Charlie at 4:20am, again with only midwifery care and no drugs at all – not even an IV.  Natural birth really means that just over there – no IV, no pertocin, no breaking your water for you!  My baby was a staggering 10lb 7oz and no-one had any idea at all we’d made such a big baby, but I didn’t need an episiotomy, didn’t tear and had minimal blood loss which amazed the midwives!

They completed the paperwork whilst I had a shower, some breakfast and nursed my baby and then we were allowed to go home – we were all back in our living room at 8:30am just 4 hours after I’d given birth.  The only time I saw a doctor was when our family physician checked Charlie at 24 hours old.

This again is the norm in the UK for an uncomplicated, unmedicated birth.

When I got pregnant with our second child in 2006 two of my close friends had already had homebirths and both of them strongly recommended that me and my husband considered it as an option.

After looking back at how successful our birth with Charlie was, my quick recovery time and how quickly I was sent home from hospital, we started to come to the decision that I really did not need to go to hospital again for this next birth. We could have family around to look after Charlie (who was 2.5 when Hannah was born) and everything would be on our terms.

The only thing that slightly concerned my midwife that time was the birth weight again, so I got sent for an additional scan at 36 weeks.  The baby was already 7.5lbs at that point so the sonographer reckoned on a 9lb ?oz baby which was no reason for anyone to question our decision for a home birth.

We started to do a lot of research, deciding on a waterbirth, but also finding out about what would happen if things did go wrong.

How would I get transferred?  Would my husband be able to come with me?  What if something happened after giving birth – would I  be separated from the baby?  All the typical questions we worked through and our midwife responded with logical and reasonable solutions to any situation that may have arisen.

Thankfully we did not have the problem of our decision being an issue with our family and friends – if anything it was the opposite!!!

They were all incredibly supportive of our decision and we were able to answer the questions of those who had a few reservations.  I was also lucky enough to have a friend who is an antenatal class teacher and she had some DVD’s with clips of homebirths on that she used to promote it as an option.  I showed them to several of my friends and they were all amazed at how calm, relaxed and loving the births were – which just made them even more supportive of our decision.

When I went into labor (in June, 2007) I called my mum straight away as she was a 2.5hr drive away and wanted to be there for us, but also to support Charlie and look after him.

I’d already got the birth pool inflated in our living room so Alex started to fill it whilst I called my midwife as my contractions just kicked in at 3 minutes apart.

Within 20 minutes my midwife and a student midwife were at our house and could tell immediately that I was in active labor.  The three of us went to my bedroom where the midwife did an internal exam and said that I was already 5cm dilated.  We went back downstairs where I was finding great relief rocking on my birthing ball at that point, and it was only another 10 minutes before my water broke.

The contractions really started to get much stronger then and I carried on using my ball and breathing/visualisation techniques I had learned throughout the pregnancy.  The midwifes were more than happy just to sit on the sofa next to me, speaking words of encouragement, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder when I needed it and checking the baby’s heartbeat BUT also having with wisdom and grace to let me birth my baby.

After just under 4 hours the contractions were starting to get on top of each other so Alex helped me into the birth pool and I was knelt down leaning over the side as he reached over and rubbed my back for me – he still wasn’t confident enough to get in the pool with me!  Another qualified midwife had arrived by this point as two needed to be there for the actual birth.  After only 30 minutes in the pool I felt a really strong urge to push, which my midwives encouraged me to do.  They didn’t touch me, or check my cervix again to ensure I was fully dilated – they just stood behind the pool so they could see and showed their confidence in me.

With just a couple of pushes, the baby’s head came out at which point they moved round infront of me and told me to kneel up and gently place my hands around the baby’s head.


I followed their lead and birthed my baby with the next contraction.  I put my hands under its arms and lifted it up to show my husband who was still just at the other side of the pool.  Alex kissed me and held me for a couple of minutes whilst we heard that first magical cry and then we looked to find that a beautiful daughter had joined our family.  My mum and Charlie joined us to share in our excitement.

I sat in the pool with Hannah for about 10 minutes whilst the cord stopped pulsating and she pinked up, then Alex cut the cord. The midwives took Hannah to get her weighed (10lbs exactly – a little more than predicted!!) and Alex helped me out of the pool to get dry, but Hannah was always kept in my eyesight.  She wasn’t wiped clean and washed, gloop put in her eyes and all that unneccessary stuff I’ve seen on programs over here – just checked, wrapped up and back in my arms.  I moved to our sofa and started to breastfeed Hannah to help the placenta come out which took 40 minutes, and of course have those very special first cuddles.

The midwives were delighted with how well the birth had gone – just over 5 hours in total – but I’ll never forget the look on the student midwife’s face.  In the UK you have to deliver 40 babies to get qualified and this was her 38th birth, so she was just about there.  She said she’d been to home birth’s before, but not a home water birth and had never experienced anything like my birth.  She had the kindness to thank me for allowing her to see what a birth can be like and wiped away a few of her own tears!!

“I truly did have a perfect birth!!”


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