Childbirth is a natural process that our bodies do very well without needing assistance in many cases, and with a good outcome in the majority of cases. Midwifery or Obstetric care can support and monitor the process to make it even safer. Not having midwifery or medical care at a birth can be a frightening prospect for some, but with good information and guidance you can make birth as safe as possible if baby arrives unexpectedly rapidly, or if you are planning a birth without assistance.

Some people plan to give birth without medical or midwifery support, and that is perfectly legal in the UK. Neither you or your partner will be prosecuted if you have an unassisted birth, but you need to prepare for this, and any unexpected outcomes, as thoroughly as possible. As a former midwife I know that birth can be safer with a trained health professional, particularly if you have a medical or pregnancy condition, multiple pregnancy , premature birth, or a baby in a breech position.

If you think your labour is starting before 37 weeks of pregnancy my advice is to get to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. Sometimes a premature labour can be halted, and if it can't, you may be offered drugs to mature your baby's lungs, and your baby will be in the right place for paediatric help if needed. Premature babies can have trouble breathing, maintaining their blood sugars or body temperature, so it's best to seek medical advice.

If your labour starts after 37 weeks of pregnancy and you plan to call maternity or obstetric help call your midwife as soon as you think you might be in labour - this gives them time to prepare to attend your homebirth. If you are planning to give birth in Hospital or Birth Centre it is also wise to let them know when your labour starts. They may not invite you in right away, but definitely let them know if your labour feels like it is happening rapidly. Even if you don't plan to give birth at home some babies can arrive very quickly, particularly if you've had a baby before - so making plans for an unassisted birth at home, without professional help is always a good idea.

Please complete all the sections even if you don't like the sound of them - they all contain useful information which may lead to better birth outcomes. Please read them thoroughly and make notes to check you have understood each section.

Please also find ways to relax and look forward to your birth. Listening to the relaxation below will help you to unwind, and connect with the calm that is within you. I hope you enjoy it.

Disclaimer This course is written for antenatal education purposes only and is not medical advice. I can not recommend planned birth without a trained health professional, although I do support those who choose unassisted birth as a well-informed and empowering choice. The presence of a trained health professional at a birth can save lives. Discuss your plans and choices with your healthcare provider.

Preparing for birth

It is important to prepare for birth practically, physically, mentally and emotionally. The best birth outcomes come from this preparation. It will also help you feel more empowered if you know what is happening and why. This feeling of empowerment is so important in the prevention of birth trauma.

Practical preparation:

  • Prepare things you will need for birth at home or in a hospital or birth centre. Download below
  • If planning a birth centre or hospital birth, find out what the facilities are and what you need to bring with you. Do a dry run so you know how long the journey takes, where to park and how to get to the labour ward.
  • Keep enough petrol in your car to get to hospital if needed and make sure you fit the baby's car seat.
  • Remind birth partners to stay sober in the last few weeks so they are safe to drive.
  • Prepare a birth music playlist - its good to have a couple of lists, maybe a relaxing one and an uplifting one.
  • Have plans for childcare or pet care if needed.
  • Make sure your fridge and freezer are well stocked for labour and easy cook meals for after the birth.

Physical preparation:

  • Eat well in pregnancy - avoid as much junk foods as possible so your body and baby are in peak health.
  • Exercise regularly - long walks, swimming and yoga are particularly useful.
  • Perineal massage helps people discover the elasticity of their birth canal, and helps prepare you for the sensations of the baby's head crowning,
  • Rest when your body tell you too - especially in the later weeks when your night sleep may be disturbed.

Mental preparation:

  • Educate yourself as much as possible about the normal birth process, your rights and choices.
  • Research interventions and surgical birth options even though you may not be planning these.
  • Listen to positive birth stories and not to fearmongers - your baby may be listening.
  • If you need a practical coping technique consider doing a hypnobirthing course.
  • Surround yourself with people who are positive abut birth.
  • Build a relaxation and mindful breathing awareness time into your day as a good practice for labour.
  • Know that you can do this.

Emotional preparation.

  • Find ways to deal with previous trauma - psychotherapy. the rewind technique, hypnotherapy etc
  • Journal to help you work though your worries.
  • Banish fears by gathering information on whether the fear is based in reality and what can be done about it - I offer a programme where people can work through their fears in a solutions based way.
  • Writing a birth plan can help you feel more informed, and therefore more in control.
  • Write down your fears and burn them then write positive affirmations.
  • Chose your birth partners carefully. you need people who truly love you and support your choices.