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Your LIFE: Would you risk a home delivery? HEALTH STORIES TWO MUMS REVEAL THEIR CONTRASTING EXPERIENCES OF GIVING BIRTH AWAY FROM THE DOCTORS, EPIDURALS AND OPERATING THEATRES...

Byline: BY ANGELA DOWDEN

I was so relaxed I fell asleep during contractions

ANGELA Dowden, 40, a nutritionist from Warwickshire, gave birth to son Timothy, five, at home.

'I ALWAYS thought I'd want as much pain relief as possible when I gave birth.

But once I was pregnant, I started to feel differently about it and became determined to give birth away from medical equipment and the screams of other mums.

My decision was strengthened by the fact that my midwife - an independent - was completely comfortable with home births and loved doing them. Prior to the big event I hired a pool and a TENS machine for pain relief.

I had mild contractions for two days, but on the night of my due date they were more regular so my husband, Christopher, strapped on the TENS and we called my midwife.

At midnight she arrived and examined me, but my cervix was only soft and not dilated. While she slept upstairs I laboured on the sofa all night. I was relaxed enough to fall asleep between contractions, even though they were only five minutes apart.

By dawn I was 3cm dilated, my waters broke and I was in active labour. I got into the bath and that got some really painful contractions going and at 8am I was already 5cm dilated and it was a race to get the birthing pool filled so I could get in.

When I did, it was a relief - the worst of the pain ebbed away and by 10.30am a second midwife was on her way, as I was fully dilated and ready to push. By that stage I was trying some gas and air, but it made me feel ill so I abandoned it.

Pushing Timothy out was exhausting as there was only millimetre by millimetre progress. But his heart rate was rock solid and I felt calm and reassured that I was in safe hands.

After a couple of hours I got out of the pool and knelt on the floor with my elbows on the sofa.

Finally, our healthy 7lb 8oz baby slithered on to the carpet at 2.02pm, pink, healthy and screaming his head off.

In hospital, my slow pushing progress would probably have triggered a ventouse (suction) or forceps delivery.

Apart from the stitches this would have involved, I'd never have felt the achievement of giving birth naturally.

I'm sure being at home eased my pain and upped my endurance. It was great to soak in my bath and sleep in my bed afterwards.'

I'm sure being at home eased my pain

IS A HOME BIRTH RIGHT FOR YOU?

THE PROS

THE Birthday Trust Fund studied nearly 6,000 planned home births, comparing them with hospital births matched for risk level and obstetric history. It found that:

The home birth group had half the risk of ending up with a caesarean section ventouse (suction) or forceps delivery.

Home births were less likely to lead to haemorrhage.

Babies in the planned home birth group were less likely to suffer birth injuries and significantly less likely to be in poor condition or to need resuscitation.

You can hire your own pool and there won't be women queuing up to use it as there may be in hospital.

You'll get straight into your home routine afterwards and the start of breast-feeding is often easier.

You may feel less stressed and can labour in any room in any position!

THE CONS

You may end up in hospital. One study showed that 12 per cent of women who booked a home birth transferred to hospital during labour. The chances are greater for first birth and if your midwife hasn't had much home-birth experience.

You won't be able to have an epidural for pain relief.

Being further away from medical help could be critical in a major emergency (for example, in a cord prolapse which can restrict the baby's oxygen supply).

A home midwife only carries basic, manual resuscitation equipment. If the baby doesn't breathe well, precious time may be lost as paramedics are called.

WHAT PAIN RELIEF CAN YOU HAVE AT HOME?

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator). This strap-on device delivers electrical impulses across the skin that may help block pain.

Gas and air (entonox) given with a mask during contractions

Some midwives may be able to give the drug pethidine, similar to morphine.

WHO SHOULDN'T CHOOSE TO HAVE A HOME BIRTH?

THEY'RE not advised if your baby has known abnormalities, you have premature labour, or have previously haemorrhaged during birth.

Diabetes, high blood pressure or maternal heart problems are also signs you shouldn't have a home birth. Placenta praevia (the placenta blocks the exit from the womb) will make a Caesarean necessary.

Doctors usually recommend that twin or breech home births are also born by Caesarean, but some specialist independent midwives will take on these as vaginal home births (from EUR2,700 including ante-and postnatal care.

CAPTION(S):

EASED: Angela in labour at home; RESULT: Angela and Timothy; Picture: ALAMY
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 13, 2007
Words:838
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