In the UK just 2% of women give birth at home, but new Government plans to offer women more choice could be about to change this. Here's some insider info.
Sarah Adel, 21, and her partner Neil, live in Loughton, Essex, with children Sky, 14 months, and Arren, 5. She's expecting her third baby any day.
I'd always wanted a home birth, but with my first baby Arren it was just assumed I'd have him in hospital. So as soon as I knew I was pregnant again, I decided I'd like a home birth. The midwives said as long as there were no complications and labour started within 10 days of my due date, a home birth was fine.
I had my antenatal appointments at the clinic, part of my GP's practice, and scans at the hospital. At 28 weeks it was explained to me that the midwives only have certain equipment and that if the baby needed resuscitating, I'd have to go to hospital.
I was also given a list of things to get ready for the birth - protective covering for the floor, spare towels and a jug - although I still don't know what the jug was for! I also had to pack a hospital bag, just in case.
Sky was nine days overdue when I went into labour. When the midwife arrived, she said the baby was lying back-to-back and warned me labour could last days. So after about 15 minutes, she left. After that the pain got worse. The only pain relief I had was my TENS machine, which is all I'd had with Arren as well. At about 7pm we had dinner and put Arren to bed. I didn't make any noise during Arren's birth so I wasn't worried I'd wake him this time around!
After I'd eaten I went upstairs to the toilet and couldn't move because the pain was so bad. Neil called the hospital and a midwife came. I hadn't met her before so I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. Later, she phoned the midwife who'd delivered Arren and asked her to help out. It meant a lot to me that she was there.
Sky was born three hours later at 10.30pm in our bedroom weighing 7lb 15oz. Neil was there with me. I asked, "Is she okay?" as everyone had gone silent. Then I noticed that the baby was blue and the cord was around her neck. But as soon as it was removed, she started crying.
The midwives stayed for a cup of tea and a chat until about 12.30am. Although I was exhausted, I was too excited to sleep.
As with a hospital birth, a doctor and a midwife came to check Sky over the next day. It was so much better than being in hospital and it was lovely for Arren to wake up the next day and see his sister in her crib. I'm planning to have my next baby at home, too. The only downside was that we didn't get a wristband as a memento to go in her baby book.
Make sure you get plenty of rest afterwards.
When friends and family know you're at home, you tend to get more visitors, so don't overdo it.
Surround yourself with the normal everyday things that make you feel comfortable in your own home. It was nice to have the TV in front of me and have my bean bag to lie on.
Use a hot water bottle if you have back pain - I found it really helpful.
If you can, get a midwife that you know already.
Gail Archer, 34, and her husband George, live in London with daughter Charlotte, now 16 months.
When I found out I was pregnant, a colleague suggested I contact the independent midwife she'd used for her birth. The midwife suggested a home birth.
The main reason I decided to go for it was that I wanted to stay with George after the birth of our child, not be stuck in hospital.
He wasn't too keen on the idea to begin with. But I won him round and we went ahead.
For the first seven months, the midwife came to the house once a month to do all the tests. The only time I went to the hospital was for my scans.I built up a rapport with her and felt relaxed knowing she was going to deliver my baby.
When I was 16 days overdue I went to my local hospital for a scan and while I was there, the midwife arranged for me to see the doctor. He was quite shocked that I'd gone this far overdue, but said he'd trust the midwife's judgement.
That night we went out for a meal and at 3am I went into labour. Three hours later we rang the midwife and she was there within 20 minutes.
I had a birth pool already set up in the spare room. When the midwife
arrived she didn't say very much. She just sat in the corner and wrote a record of everything that happened. I think she sensed I wanted a quiet room and she just let me get on with it.
Around 11am the pain started to get really bad and I couldn't even talk. At about 2pm I started pushing. Every 15 minutes the midwife would listen to the baby's heart rate to check it was okay and at one point it dipped. After that, she monitored the baby's heart more closely, but thankfully it didn't dip again. Later she told me if it had she'd have sent us to hospital. George was great - he was with me all the way through. He held my hand, kept me hydrated and encouraged me.
Charlotte was finally born in our spare bedroom at around 4pm, weighing 7lb 9½oz. When she came out she was blue and didn't make a sound. The midwife encouraged us to stroke the baby to help revive her while she cleared her nose and mouth. Within seconds Charlotte started to breathe. She was still blue so the midwife gave her oxygen, and within a few minutes she turned pink. Because the midwife was so calm and professional, I felt fine.
Once the placenta had been delivered, the midwife helped me clean up and put us all to bed. And that was the best bit - us being together.
Although I was quite shocked at how painful giving birth was I didn't feel frightened or out of control. It was a wonderful experience and I'd definitely do it again.
Prepare yourself for the possibility that you might have to go to hospital.
If you hire a birth pool, get a heated one and set it up two weeks before.
Do antenatal yoga. I did and it was so relaxing.
Cook and freeze two weeks' worth of meals before your due date. That way you can focus on your baby after the birth.
Find an independent midwife. It was so reassuring and relaxing, but it's not cheap.
The facts to help you decide
Clare Winter is an independent midwife and a representative of the Independent Midwives Association. For more info call 01483 821104.
How safe are home births?
If you have relatively low risk factors there's about a 4% chance of something going wrong. Research shows that even if you've had a Caesarean in the past, the risk is still low.
How can I book a home birth?
Talk to your community midwife or midwife supervisor about it. If you want an independent midwife, contact the Independent Midwife Association (above).
How are community and independent midwives different?
A community midwife works for the NHS and may just do antenatal checks and postnatal visits. Some do home and hospital births too. An independent midwife is self-employed with no connection to the NHS and has no insurance, so is not often allowed to practice in hospital.
What if my GP doesn't approve?
Your GP has nothing to do with it. It's a woman's choice where she has her baby.
How do I deal with opposition?
Contact the Association For Improvements In Maternity Services on 0870 765 1433 or your local supervisor of midwives for advice.
Can I change my mind on the day? Yes, but if you've booked with an independent midwife, she won't be able to care for you in hospital, unless she has an agreement.
Where will I have my checks?
Wherever your community midwife practices, for example, your GP surgery or health centre. An independent midwife will come to your house. In either case scans will always be done in a local hospital.
What pain relief can I have?
You can have a bath, use a TENS machine or have gas and air. If you want pethidine, tell your community midwife in advance. If you have an independent midwife, you need to go to your GP as most don't have the facilities for the strict rules regarding pethidine storage. Epidurals are safer given in hospitals.
What if something goes wrong?
Midwives are trained to deal with everything. There are very few times when you can't anticipate something going wrong in time to go to hospital. A community or independent midwife will call the hospital and an ambulance. There may be a wait for an ambulance, so some couples go in their own car.
How long will the midwife stay after the birth?
Two hours, but it depends how you are.
What about postnatal checks?
Community midwives do checks up to 10 days after the birth. Independent midwives continue up to 28 days.
What's the average cost of an independent midwife?
It varies from £1500 to £4000, depending on where you live. They're also on call 24 hours a day.