A to Z

Active Birth

The phrase ‘Active Birth’ was coined by birth activist Janet Balaskas in the early 1980s after she started encouraging labouring women to adopt upright positions and movement instead of lying down as is the norm in most hospital settings. Active birth does far more than suggest comfortable positions. It challenges the whole obstetric view of birth in Western Society and turns women from passive patients to active birth givers.


At a home birth, you can create the atmosphere to your liking and from room to room. You may need the steamy warmth of the bathroom at one point, you may feel like being outside in the garden the next. You may want to walk up and down the corridor, dance to music or fold the laundry!


At a home birth, the attention is on you and your attention can be on this life giving process. No one is distracted by monitors and that machine that goes ‘ping!’ You don’t have to get distracted by signing forms, the tea lady or that machine that goes ‘ping!’


Babies born at home are treated with the utmost respect and looked upon as human beings with feelings.

Babies born at home are not subjected to routine suctioning, bright lights or rough handling.

Babies tend to lose less weight when born at home.

Babies are highly sensitive and intelligent beings who needed to be treated with dignity and gentleness.

Back Up

When planning a home birth, your midwife will more than likely send you to go and see a doctor at the hospital which she uses as her back up. This visit will ensure that in case of emergency, you have easy access to medical care. But remember that only about 10% of planned home births transfer into hospital.

Balaskas, Janet

Founder of the Active Birth Movement, she is a leading international speaker at conferences and teaches midwives and health professionals in many countries. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1946, she graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand and emigrated to England in the 1960’s. She is the mother of four children all of who were born ‘actively’ – the first in a small hospital in Johannesburg and the others at home in London.

Her books include ‘Active Birth’ and ‘The Water Birth Book.’

Big Baby

According to Guinness World Records, the heaviest baby born to a healthy mother was a boy weighing 22 pounds, 8 ounces (10,22 kg) in Aversa, Italy, in 1955.

Many women are made fearful about their babies growing too big and this is a concern if a mother’s diet and lifestyle is unhealthy. But if a mother eats well, her baby should grow proportionally to her body.

Remember that ultrasounds, while being a valuable diagnostic tool, have been known to be off by up to 600g either way when estimating the size and weight of a baby. The only way to know if your baby will fit through your pelvis is to go into labour and see.

Co-founder of Home Birth South Africa, Ruth Ehrhardt, gave birth to a 5,47kg baby boy at home in 2006.


At home births, there is a reduced amount of maternal bleeding after the birth because the cord is cut after it has stopped pulsating and the placenta is allowed to be born passively. In the hospital the cord is cut straight away and the placenta artificially extracted.

People are often concerned about the possible mess a home birth may create in the home. Attending midwives are very aware of this and pride themselves on ensuring that most mess ends up linen savers (plastic covered paper squares) and in the birth pool.

In South Afruca, cord blood is usually taken after the birth and will be sent away to test for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). This is a standard test. Very little blood is taken from the cord.

Breast Crawl

Every newborn, when placed on the mother’s abdomen soon after birth, has the ability to find her mother’s breast all on her own and to decide when to take the first breastfeed. A home environment makes it easier to initiate breastfeeding in this more spontaneous way.

It is very beautiful and inspiring to see a newborn baby make the effort to reach the breast and successfully latch.

See www.breastcrawl.org for more info.


Breastfeeding is often more successful in a home environment. This is often because the mother is able to room in with her baby (no one is offering to take the baby to a nursery so she can rest), one on one support from her midwife and/or doula, and time and space to get to know her baby uninterrupted.

Breast milk often comes in earlier after a home birth, rather than on day three or four after a hospital birth.

For info and support on breastfeeding see lalecheleague.org


Giving birth to a breech in hospital, let alone at home, is a contentious issue and in most cases in South Africa, breech babies are born via caesarean.

Online you will find some breech home birthing stories. They are mostly from the US and the UK.

Some beautiful photos of a footling breech birth here.


South African home births have a 5 – 20 % caesarean rate, depending on the midwife. Private hospitals in South Africa have a caesarean rate of 60 – 100%. On average, government hospitals in South Africa seem to have around 30% caesarean rate. The World Health Organisation recommends that a national caesarean rate should be between 10-15%.

A question that is often asked when mothers plan home births is: What if you need a caesar?  This is a valid question. During the labour, the midwife discretely monitors the well-being of mother and baby and should the need arise for a caesarean, the midwife will communicate with her back-up hospital and will transfer the mother there.

An article on ‘natural caesareans.’

An article on ensuring the baby’s natural microbiome is seeded during a caesar.


It is your choice to birth where you feel most comfortable.

At home women take responsibility and make choices for themselves.

Home birth is a very personal choice. Some people may not understand and feel you are being irresponsible. But it is your choice and right to birth where you feel safest.


As the muscles of the uterus contract, the cervix ripens and opens to make way for your baby.

Contractions can be incredibly intense and painful but they are also manageable. Keeping active, breathing, moving, smiling, singing, moaning, chanting, dancing, rocking will get you through them. And in between each contraction there is a beautiful blissful state where you can rest.

Contractions come one at a time. Focus on them one at a time.

Everyone has different coping techniques for dealing with contractions. Some women prefer to using breathing techniques, some moan, others sing, some are completely quiet, some dance or stamp their feet.

Some people do not like to use the term ‘contractions’ for the pains of labour. They prefer to use words like: surge or rush or labour pains.


Home birth is a cost effective way of having private professional care.

Private hospitals are expensive and in government hospitals, space is often insufficient and they are overcrowded.

Each midwife practice will have their own fees attached to their practice. Contact these individually to get a quote. In South Africa midwives seem to charge between R4500 – R10 000 for a home birth.


At home, your dignity is maintained.


These are women who offer continual emotional and physical support to labouring woman (and her partner) in the form of comfort, reassurance and gentle touch. Doulas usually stay with the mother throughout labour, constantly assessing and responding to her needs.

Here in South Africa, you can source a doula through these associations.


Educate yourself during pregnancy as to your choices, options and rights.


If it becomes necessary to transfer to hospital, outside emergencies receive more attention than do hospital emergencies.

If you were giving birth in the hospital and an emergency caesarean was necessary, you would still have to wait for the anaesthetist, the gynaecologist and the entire theatre team to arrive and get ready.

The most common emergencies are foetal heart abnormalities during labour, bleeding after birth and a baby that is struggling to breathe after birth. Midwives carry a hand held doppler and check the foetal heart rate throughout labour. If the baby’s heart rate does not sound good, this would be a reason to transfer through to hospital. Sometimes mothers bleed a bit more than they should (it is normal to lose about a cup of blood after birth). Midwives carry the drugs and IV equipment to deal with this emergency. About 10% of all newborns need some assistance to breathe at birth. Midwives who attend home births are trained in neonatal resuscitation and carry the equipment to deal with this.

Midwives who attend home births are highly skilled and experienced in dealing with and assessing emergency situations.

Most transfers to hospital are not of the screeching breaks, rushing through red robots variety. Because a midwife is constantly assessing the labour and will note when it is deviating from the norm, she will often suggest that a labour continue in hospital if she foresees that an intervention may be needed. Most hospital transfers, while being sad and disappointing for the family that was hoping to birth at home, are calm and the mother often has time to process the change in her birth plan.


The Birthing Environment plays such a huge role in how a woman labours and births. The soft glow of candles and the music of her choice in contrast to bright lights and stainless steel.

Environmental factors actually play a big role in how a woman labours. Oxytocin, the hormone which makes the uterus contract during labour, is quite sensitive to the environment and prefers an environment that is warm, calm, dark and where the mother feels safe.


You can eat when you like and what you like…you can even order pizza or cook a meal if that’s what you feel like doing!

Gaskin, Ina May

Ina May Gaskin has been described as “the mother of authentic midwifery.”

In 1971 Gaskin, with her husband Stephen, founded the famous intentional community known as The Farm in Summertown, Tenessee. There, she and the midwives of the Farm created The Farm Midwifery Center, one of the first out-of-hospital birth centres in the US. Family members and friends are commonly in attendance and are encouraged to take an active role in the birth. The Farm Midwifery Center has been able to maintain extremely low rates of medical intervention with consistently good birth outcomes for nearly four decades.

Ina May’s most famous book is ‘Spiritual Midwifery.’

Gaskin Manoeuvre

The Gaskin Manoeuvre, also called “all fours”, is a potentially life-saving technique which was introduced to modern obstetrics by Ina May Gaskin in 1976 after learning it from a Belizean woman who had, in turn, learned the manoeuvre in Guatemala, where it originated. Gaskin subsequently became the first midwife to have an obstetrical manoeuvre named after her. In this manoeuvre, the mother supports herself on her hands and knees to resolve shoulder dystocia. Switching to a hands and knees position causes the shape of the pelvis to change, thereby allowing the trapped shoulder to free itself and the baby to be born.

High Risk

A midwife or doctor cannot decide whether a woman can, or cannot, have a home birth. It is the woman’s choice, and hers alone. Health professionals may give her advice, but it is up to her whether she accepts their recommendations. Anyone who tells a woman that she is not “allowed” to have a home birth misunderstands their own authority.

Locate information and opinions to help you make your own decision. We all have our own individual thresholds where we would decide that the benefits of having emergency facilities available outweigh the negative aspects and risks of hospital birth. Some women are better able to labour in a hospital environment than others – you will know better than anybody else just how the environment around you is likely to affect you in labour.

There are many situations listed here that would be better off closely monitored in a hospital environment.

Here are some reasons you may be advised against having a home birth:

  • This is your first baby

  • You’ve had too many babies

  • You are too young

  • You are too old

  • Your home is unsuitable

  • You had to use forceps or vacuum to assist in the delivery of your last baby

  • You had a previous bad tear or episiotomy

  • You bled very heavily after your last birth (Post Partum Haemmhorage)

  • You have had a previous caesarean

  • Your haemoglobin levels are very low (anaemia, iron deficiency)

  • You have Group B strep

  • You have low platelet levels

  • You have high platelet levels

  • You are on anticoagulants

  • You have diabetes

  • You may be expecting a small baby

  • You may be expecting a large baby

  • Your pelvis may be too small – or you are too small

  • You are too big/ heavy/ overweight

  • You are having twins

  • Your baby is lying breech

  • You have pre-eclampsia/high blood pressure

  • You have asthma

  • You have Multiple Sclerosis

  • You have ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • You’ve had surgery on your cervix

  • You have an abnormal uterus

  • Your baby is overdue

  • Your baby is too early

  • Your waters have been broken for over 24 hours

  • There is meconium in your waters

  • You have mental health issues

  • Your baby has a suspected abnormality

  • Your baby’s head is too high/it’s head is not engaged

  • You have a thyroid problem

  • You have Obstetric Cholestasis

  • There is no one to attend home births in your area


Midwives work with back up hospitals in case of an emergency and a need to transfer.

If a hospital is required, outside emergencies receive more attention than do hospital emergencies.

You will more than likely visit your back hospital at least once during your pregnancy to ensure you have easy access to the facility should you need to during labour.


Giving birth can sometimes require medical intervention or help. Intervention procedures can include induction, augmentation, episiotomy, forceps or vacuum delivery and caesarean section. Some or all intervention procedures may not be necessary for the birth of your baby, but all too often, interventions have become part of routine care, leaving women feeling robbed of their birthing experience.

Many women chose to birth at home so that they have more autonomy and control over their bodies and the labour process. As a result, there is less intervention at a home birth because each woman is an individual and needs different things at different times.


At home, a woman gives birth instinctively, listening to her body.


A home birth is an intimate affair.

A home birth involves the spiritual, emotional, social, physical, mental, romantic, medical, religious and natural aspects.


You may get the ‘jitters’ as your due date approaches. Have I made the right decision? Am I mad for choosing to birth at home rather than in the ‘safety’ of the hospital?

Kangaroo Care

Mothers and newborns around the world use kangaroo care. The premise is that like a baby kangaroo, baby humans are underdeveloped at birth and go straight from the umbilical cord to the nipple and continue its development just like a baby kangaroo. Instead of having a pouch that you carry your baby in and keep skin to skin and close to the breast, human mothers for centuries use baby slings and wraps to simulate a mother kangaroo.

See www.kangaroomothercare.com


Did you know you will not have round the clock access to a kitchen during your labour or even the immediate post partum period in a hospital setting? It makes such a difference to have unrestricted access to food & drink of your choice at any time at all for you & all your support people.


Deep sensual kissing with your partner during labour will stimulate that love hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that stimulates the uterus’s contractions). It is much easier to kiss and cuddle on your bed at home than on a high single bed in a hospital.


At home feel free to kneel, squat, walk, dance, twirl, crawl, stamp, toyi-toyi…

Many women choose to birth kneeling on all fours.


Knowledge truly is power when it comes to birthing at home. Find out the facts, make an informed choice and go for it!


It’s not called labour for nothing, it’s hard work!

At home, a woman may labour and give birth in the same room (if that is where she feels most comfortable). In hospital, she may be transferred to a different room to give birth.

Lotus Birth

Lotus birth, or umbilical non-severance, is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord attached to both the baby and the placenta following birth, without clamping or severing, and allowing the cord the time to detach from the baby naturally. In this way the baby, cord and placenta are treated as a single unit until detachment occurs, generally two to three days after birth.

Apparently, lotus birth is so called because the first ever ‘lotus birth’ was done on a little baby girl called Lotus!

See lotusbirth.net for more info.


Humans are mammals. Mammals like to give birth in dark places away from light, strangers and stimulation.


Midwives specialise in normal birth while doctors specialise in high risks and abnormal births.

A home birth offers personalised care throughout the pregnancy, labour, birth and post partum with people you have chosen and trust.

Midwives who do home births are experienced and equipped to deal with emergencies.

At a home birth, a qualified midwife attends to your needs constantly. In hospital one midwife may supervise two or three births simultaneously.

After a home birth, a professional independent midwife will visit you at home a few times to ensure the well being of both mother and baby. After a hospital birth, women are usually discharged after three days and expected to be able to manage on their own.

The word ‘midwife’ come from the Old English, meaning ‘with women.’

To find a midwife to attend your home birth have a look at our listing of home birth midwives here.

Midwives Model of Care

The Midwives Model of Care is based on the fact that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes.

The Midwives Model of Care includes:

  • Monitoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle.

  • Providing the mother with individualised education, counselling and prenatal care, continuous hands on assistance during labour and delivery and post-partum support.

  • Minimising technological interventions.

  • Identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention.

The application of this woman centred model of care, has been proven to reduce the incidence of birth injury, trauma and caesareans.



Your home is really your nest. The place you come to for solace & comfort. This is where your child will come to live. What a wonderful thing to be born at home!

Odent, Michel

Born in France in 1930, Michel Odent studied medicine at the University of Paris, qualifying in general surgery, obstetrics, and gynecology. His innovative leadership of the Obstetrical Unit of a state hospital in the small town of Pithiviers in Northern France from 1962-1986 brought the world to his door. From 1986-1990 he was commissioned by the World Health Organization to report on planned home birth in industrialized countries.

In the 1980s he moved to London, where he set up the Primal Health Research Centre and practised as a home birth midwife. His research has spanned topics such as preconceptional and prenatal care, nutrition in pregnancy, childbirth itself, breastfeeding and childhood vaccinations.

Frequently interviewed on television, in radio programmes and in the popular press, he has become known as the pioneer of the use of water during labour and homelike hospital birthing rooms.


Some women have orgasms during labour. Oxytocin, the hormone that produces uterine contractions is also the same hormone responsible for producing the orgasm.

It is well understood that sensations of pain in labour are regulated by hormones released by the woman’s body. During labour, oxytocin—the hormone that causes contractions and helps the baby be born—works in harmony with endorphins—the body’s own pain relieving hormone. During a home birth, the woman’s body will release these hormones according to her needs and she will usually cope well with the sensations of labour. When a woman attempts to give birth in another environment such as a hospital, however, this process may not work as well. Even if a woman feels rationally that hospitals are “safer” places in which to give birth, her subconscious mind knows that this is not the case, and she feels insecure. This causes her body to secrete the hormone adrenaline, which causes the levels of both oxytocin and endorphins to drop. She experiences far more pain than she would in her own home.

See orgasmicbirth.com for more insight into this subject matter.


When a woman is in labour she releases a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that makes the uterus contract during labour.

It is also the hormone of love.

Oxytocin is the hormone we release when we are enjoying a meal, or having a stimulating conversation. It is the hormone we release when we are making love and when we orgasm. It is the hormone that makes us feel in love, and it is the hormone that releases the milk when a mother is breastfeeding.

Isn’t it amazing that it is the love hormone that brings the baby into the world?

In hospitals synthetic oxytocin is often given to women. It has different names like Pitocin or Syntocinon. Synthetic oxytocin is given to make the mother’s uterus contract, which can help to birth the baby. But this synthetic oxytocin is not a love hormone.

It is not like the oxytocin that is naturally secreted by the mother’s body. Synthetic oxytocin is just a hormone that contracts the uterus and helps to push the baby out. It is important that we know more about the effects and function of natural oxytocin, because when a labouring woman is under the effect of synthetic oxytocin she may have a decreased ability to produce natural oxytocin.

How is synthetic oxytocin used?

Synthetic oxytocin is used to induce a labour (this means starting a labour artificially) or to augment a labour (this means to speed up a labour that has stopped or slowed down). Synthetic oxytocin is also used for active management of the third stage of labour when the placenta is delivered (an injection of synthetic oxytocin is given to the mother to help deliver the placenta quickly). It is also used to stop a mother bleeding if she has a post partum haemorrhage (when the mother’s uterus doesn’t contract after birth and she begins to bleed heavily).


Mothers who have home births are less likely to use drugs for pain relief than mothers who have hospital births. Whilst this may be partly because the the home birth mothers are more likely to want a natural labour (ie no drugs or interventions at all), it is also partly because mothers generally find labour and birth less painful at home, because they are more relaxed and free to move.

Pain Relief

There are many non-drug options to help manage labour at home births.

Here are some examples of drug-free options:

  • Hypnotherapy – get training before the birth or ask your practitioner to attend.

  • Birth pools

  • a Doula

  • Warm water used in a bath or shower

  • Relaxation

  • Movement, yoga, focus on rocking movements and sounds you can make to help manage different sorts of labour pain.

  • Choosing positions that are most comfortable for you.

  • A Birth Ball – this is a large ball which you can sit on in labour or beforehand, and roll your hips around on it. You can also lean over it. A helpful prop for using natural movement in labour – some women find it very helpful.

  • Distraction – stroking your cats, watching your fishtank, listening to music, watching TV – it can help a lot in the early stages.

  • Music and singing – really can help to distract and focus the mind.

  • Massage from a helpful birth partner

  • Heat, eg hot compresses, hot water bottles, heat packs – to be applied to your tummy, back, or wherever you want them.

  • TENS machines

  • Aromatherapy

  • Herbal remedies

  • Homeoopathy

  • Acupuncture

  • Privacy

  • Quiet


Your partner will be able to support you in ways that might be impossible in a hospital.

Your partner can help you walk around outside during labour, or support you as you move around the house.

Your partner can get into a birthing pool with you.

Your partner can help you eat and drink if you want something.

Your partner will be able to support you as you birth the baby. In fact, your midwife may help your partner to catch the baby.


How do I go about planning a home birth? How will you go about arranging it all?

The following suggestions will help you put your home birth into action:

Finding a caregiver

This is probably the most important factor in your quest for a home birth.

Many women assume that their gynaecologist or obstetrician (ob/gyn) would be the best person to ask for advice on home birth only to find that not only does their ob/gyn not attend home births but in most cases, will also strongly discourage this birthing option.It is important to note that most ob/gyns have probably never attended/witnessed a home birth. The only time they are involved in a home birth is on the rare occasion when some intervention is required and the mother has been transferred in for specialist care.

In South Africa the best people to ask about home births, and the experts in this particular field, are independent midwives. These are generally registered nurses & midwives with advanced midwifery skills. You can find an independent midwifes through various sources like the expectant mother’s guide and various directories on the net. Our directory lists quite a number of midwives, all of them experienced in and supportive of home birth.

What special equipment/requirements are necessary for a home birth?

You’ll be pleased to learn, that as it stands, your home is probably “well equipped” to have a home birth.

The most important thing is clean running water. Apart from that, your home has a place to eat and drink (kitchen and dining room) a place for resting (your bedroom and sitting room) a place to relieve yourself (the loo) and a place to soak those weary, aching muscles (the bath)

Your midwife will give you a basic list of items required such a plenty of towels, spare bedding, a torch, some personal hygiene items for yourself like pads and cotton wool. So as you can see, there’s really nothing “special” required as far as equipment goes.

Who will clean up after the birth?

I once heard a midwife relay the story of a home birth she attended, where the father in preparation for “an almighty” mess, had lined the walls of their birthing room with newspaper from ceiling to floor! Needless to say, he was over prepared.Midwives and doulas will leave your home in the condition it was in on arrival. At worst, it’ll look like you’ve thrown a birthday party…which indeed you have! It is a good idea to organise a roster roster of friends or relatives that can help with things like dishes, children,dogs,laundry, etc the weeks following the birth.

Who disposes of the placenta?

You may choose to keep your placenta for religious, cultural or spiritual reasons in which case you can store the placenta in a plastic bag or ice cream container until you decide what you’d like to do with it. There are many rituals pertaining to placentas such as burying it and planting a tree over it that “grows” with your child. Making placenta prints –  where you make a “stamp” impression of the placenta(it looks like an oak tree) Some couples choose to have a lotus birth where the cord is not severed from the placenta but stays attached to the baby until it dries out. It’s usually preserved with special herbs. For those of you who do not wish to keep the placenta, the midwife will take it and send it to a medical waste facility for incineration.

What safety measures are in place in the event of an emergency at a home birth?

All through your antenatal visits with your midwife, she is eliminating and screening for possible risk factors that could make a home birth unsuitable. You will also be required to have been assessed by an obstetrician in either a private or state maternity hospital that will provide you with medical backing in the event of an emergency. The midwife will also bring along equipment such as an oxygen cylinder, resuscitation instruments, local anaesthetic, anti-haemorrhage drugs, etc to deal with such emergencies.

Do I need to tell my neighbours that we’re planning a home birth?

No doubt your neighbours will have seen you waddling by through your pregnancy and as is common place in South Africa, everyone assumes you’ll be going to hospital to have your baby. You are under absolutely no obligation to tell anyone (parents and in-laws included) that you are planning a home birth, especially if you feel their reaction will be negative. But you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the impending arrival of a new little person really brings a neighbourhood together.Think of it this way, your birthing sounds will get all the neighbourhood ladies to start preparing home-cooked meals to feast on after the birth.


At home, a woman can choose the most comfortable position for labour and birth. In hospital, women are told how to give birth most of the time.

Post Partum

You can snuggle up to your baby after birth and not have to go anywhere!

This is a delicate time for mother and baby. In many cultures the first 40 days are a time for mother and baby to bond and rest before having to re enter society. Unfortunately, all too often women are expected to entertain visitors and to get on with on their lives. If there is anything we can recommend, it is to treat the first few weeks after the birth as part of the birth and to rest and get to know your baby. You will never get this time back again.


A woman who gives birth at home has more confidence and an increased psychological boost.


Birthing at home will give you the opportunity to be queen for the day.


Giving birth at home can be a quiet, restful experience.

There will be no one else giving birth in the same space/ down the corridor from you.

Ricki Lake

Ricki Lake is an American actress and television personality. Her  documentary, The Business of Being Born, weighs the risks and benefits of having a midwife-assisted natural birth rather than delivering in a hospital with doctors and drugs on hand.


After giving birth at home, you will be able to rest as and when you wish. You won’t have to slot into a hospital routine.


Home births have been proven to be the safest place to give birth for healthy women.

The World Health organisation has said that there is no proof that birth in hospital is any safer than giving birth at home.

A study in Denmark in 1997 found that women who gave birth at home, gave birth to babies in better condition and with fewer problems. The women experienced less stress during their home births and needed less medical intervention than if they’d been in hospital.

There is far less chance of getting an infection when birthing in a home environment.

Women feel safer birthing in their home environments.


At a home birth, you can choose to have your children with you.

Having siblings attend the birth of their new brother or sister will usually depend on the attitude of the parents and if the mother feels comfortable with having her children there.

If you do choose to have your other children at your home birth it is probably a good idea to have someone there whose sole responsibility is the children and someone the children trust so that their mother need not feel worried.

Skin to skin

A home birth reduces the likelihood of needing to separate the infant from its mother after birth. This is important, as immediate skin-to-skin maternal contact and breastfeeding in the first hour after birth increases the likelihood of successful breastfeeding for a longer duration.

Skin to skin contact also promotes bonding.

There is nothing that can replace the feeling of that wet slippery baby placed on your chest, still warm from the womb. And then snuggling up to sleep with your baby in your arms, drinking in that soft newborn smell.


Women who birth at home often choose the supported squat to give birth in. This position, opend the pelvis by 30% than lying on your back.

Support People

When you give birth at home, you can choose who your support people are, how many of them you want, what their roles are, etc.


No time limit to giving birth at home.

No shift changes in the middle of labour.

Some women’s contractions stop with the sun rising and begin again when it sets…you try labouring like this in a hospital!


You will always remember how you were treated during your labour. You will remember the touch and smell of those around you and everything they said.

Unassisted birth

Unassisted, or Free, childbirth means giving birth at home without the aid of doctors or midwives.

In an unassisted childbirth no one acts as a midwife. Instead, the birthing woman herself determines the course of her labour. Partners or friends may participate to varying degrees, but no one instructs the woman as to how to give birth, when to push, what position to be in, etc. Occasionally suggestions may be offered but it is assumed that the woman giving birth is the true expert on her own body.

Read more on unassisted childbirth here.

Read some of our own South African free or unassisted births here.


VBAC stands for a Vaginal Birth After a Caesarean. VBACs at home are now being called HBACs (Home Birth After a Caesarean).

When we searched for info on HBACs online we found this quote by an American midwife which summed HBACs up for us: “ The reason I would particularly recommend a home birth for a VBAC is that she’ll have one-on-one care, which is most likely to notice the early signs of any problems. Assuming you live relatively close to a hospital and have backup arrangements, you could probably get to the hospital by the time they could get ready for surgery anyway, in the very unlikely case of a problem. And having the one-on-one care would give you the early warning that you’d need to avoid serious complications.”

For more info on VBAC visit VBAC.com

Read some of our own VBAC home birth stories here.

Visiting hours

In a hospital, there is a rigid routine as to when people can visit you. At home you can choose, who visits, when they visit, and whether you want to have any visitors at all!

At home, you can put a sign on the door that says, “Mother and baby sleeping.”

Visitors should not expect to get cups of tea and take up the new parent’s time with idle chat about their new job. Any visitors should be respectful and quiet and do useful things like fold laundry, wash dishes, walk dogs and play with the older children.

Wagner, Marsden

Marsden Wagner, MD, was a perinatologist and perinatal epidemiologist from California. He was Regional Officer for Maternal and Child Health in the European Regional office of the World Health Organization for 15 years. He raised four children as a single father. Marsden was an outspoken supporter of midwifery Marsden passed away in April 2014 at the age of 84. He was very pro-home birth. He was quoted as saying, “ Get birth the hell out of the hospital!”

Water Birth

Water Birth is a method of giving birth, which involves immersion in warm water. Proponents believe that this method is safe and provides many benefits for both mother and infant including pain relief and a less traumatic birth experience for the baby.

French obstetrician, Michel Odent used warm-water birth pools for pain relief for the mother, and as a way to normalize the birth process. When some women refused to get out of the water to finish giving birth, Odent started researching the possible benefits for the baby of being born under water, as well as the potential problems in such births. By the late 1990s, thousands of women had given birth at Odent’s birthing centre at Pithiviers and the notion of water birth had spread to many other Western countries.

The great advantage of planning a waterbirth at home, as opposed to in a hospital, is that you know the birth pool will be available when you want it, that nobody else will be using it, and that you will not be denied the chance to try it because it ‘isn’t clean.’

When the pool is in your home, as long as you have assembled it beforehand and checked that it works, there is nothing to stop you labouring in it.

Benefits for the baby:

Birth can be a strenuous experience for the baby. Properly heated water helps to ease the transition from the birth canal to the outside world because the warm liquid resembles the familiar intra-uterine environment and softens light, colors and noises.

Benefits for the mother:

Aids in pain management

Gives labouring woman a sense of control

Water birth is believed to aid stretching of the perineum and decrease the risk of skin tears.

For more information on waterbirth visit Waterbirth International.

Read some South African waterbirth stories here.


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Giving birth at home is an exciting adventure!


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