Home Birth Equipment List
This page is intended as a 'shopping list' for you to tick off items which you may want to have ready for a home birth.
The items listed are just suggestions, taken mainly from the page on Practical Preparation for Home Birth - it is certainly not necessary to have most of them. Complementary therapies are mentioned because some women find them helpful, but they are not necessarily effective or right for everyone, and I do not intend to endorse them by listing them here. Delete those you don't fancy.
Towards the end of this page you'll find some comments from midwives Mary Cronk and Virginia Howes on what they recommend women provide before a homebirth.
These can be put in an emergency bag, if you decide to pack one. Otherwise it might help to have them all in one place so your birth partner can find them for you.
- Old or disposable pants/knickers
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Clean clothes
- Plastic bag to put your dirty clothes in, if you transfer to hospital.
- Maternity sanitary pads
- T-shirt or nightdress
- Phone numbers of people to call after the birth
- Baby clothes and receiving blanket
- Newborn nappies
- Cartons of juice/drink
- Glucose tablets or other food.
- Camera and film
- Flannel or sponge for mopping mother's brow
Complementary Therapies, if they appeal to you:
- Essential oils, eg Clary Sage, Jasmine, Rose, Lavender, Frankincense, Tangerine or Bergamot are commonly used in labour.
- Burner for aromatherapy oils
- Candle to go in the burner
- Base oil for massage
- Herbal remedies if you want to use them, eg Blue Cohosh to strengthen contractions.
- Homoeopathic remedies if this is something you believe in; Helios do a kit for labour.
- Phone numbers of any therapists you may want to contact.
- Accupressure bands for nausea
- TENS machine with batteries
Virginia Howes, an independent midwife belonging to the Kent Midwifery Practise, has this to say:
What do women need for a homebirth?
Not much in fact. The most important thing is a plastic sheet to protect floors, sofas and beds, and some soft covering like old sheets or towels. And then lots of nice little touches like music and candles for atmosphere, comfort foods and drinks, ice cubes, hot water bottle for example to help with labour.
I asked Virginia if she could go into some more detail, as a midwife's perspective is particularly helpful:
For a homebirth I always reassure women that most items needed can be found around the home, as I don't like to think they are put at extra cost or inconvenience. However most women like to get things ready and it appeals to their nesting instincts. I suggest putting a box together so itís easily accessible. There is nothing worse for me than when I ask a woman where her knickers are and she says:
"Room at top of stairs on the left, cupboard on the right, open the left door and third drawer down under the greyish bras and there are my old knickers!!!"
Phew - by the time I get up the stairs I have forgotten the instructions!
There are lots of things that women may want to have ready such as CDs, candles, nice foods, drinks, cool sprays etc, but for the actual birth from a practical point these are the things I would like to see put together in one place.
So, in the birth box:
- I suggest a few pieces of plastic sheet the size of a fireside rug and an old sheet to cover them. One can be for birthing on and another to put on sofa or bed for afterwards when blood loss may still be heavy.
- If having a waterbirth, as many old towels as possible as women are often in and out. Towels then get wet and we constantly need dry ones. I reassure them they do not have to be new towels, try and borrow or use old ones. They wash perfectly well after, even if they get blood stained but best not to use pastel colours or they will look pretty dull after the wash.
Although ever aware of the environmental issues and cost, I just love disposable bed mats meant for incontinence in the young or elderly. They are the perfect size for birthing and fantastic at keeping new babies warm. They save on lots of work too. Can be bought in Boots, Mothercare, supermarkets etc 2 packets serve well.
Rubbish sacks - one for dirty linen and one for rubbish.
Kitchen foil - If your baby is born in the winter it is probably easy to heat up some towels, on a radiator or in front of the fire. The towels are used during the birth so that the baby can be greeted into warmth or dried off and initially wrapped in. However, during the summer it is more difficult and so I completely cover/wrap 2 medium towels in kitchen foil and pop them in the oven on a low setting. As soon as the head is visible, I ask the partner or someone else to get the warm towels, and when baby is born I open the foil and the towels are a lovely temperature.
Container for placenta - I always suggest an old 1 litre ice cream box and this is especially good if you are keeping your placenta. NHS midwives usually carry yellow bags for the placenta if they are taking it away for disposal.
A bucket - I use a bucket with some water in for all sorts! Vomiting is very common in labour and so too is passing faeces. Both can be quickly disposed of in the bucket.
Sanitary towels - at least 3 packets to start, but only put one packet in the box. Leave another in every toilet and in the bathroom. Be sure they are the biggest, thickest maternity ones you can find. Even if you usually only purchase slim thin types, they will not do for the immediate post-partum period.
Find your oldest big knickers and put a couple of pairs in your box. Some women purchase disposable ones but I find they are only good for slim women.
Put your nice warm dressing gown away and have a short, light, front-opening top to put on after the birth. Partnerís short-sleeve shirts are a good example. If you put your long thick dressing gown on, it may get bloody very quickly and that is a whole load of washing. With a short outfit you can sit on the sofa or bed, directly onto a towel or bed mat.
For baby all you need initially is a nappy and a warm light blanket. The fewer clothes the better to start as this will encourage skin-to-skin contact. Dressing him or her can come much later.
Cord tie - If you are using your own ribbon or tie then that will need to be in the box.
Birth plan - if the midwife is not someone you know and who knows you she will need to read your birth plan so make sure it is in your box. Give someone the role of going through it with her if you have a birth partner, friend or mother with you.
Lastly, put a small thin blanket or throw over the box so that one is handy in case you are waiting around for the placenta or you feel shivery after the birth, which is very common. A light cover will make you feel very cosy without overheating you.
You will probably have a "just in case" bag packed, although some women prefer not to do this. It will depend on each individual's opinion and her attitude towards the psychology of the whole issue of transfer. As a midwife, when I have to transfer a woman to hospital there is sometimes difficulty in finding her some clothes and shoes to put on, when she may have been naked, at the same time as calling for an ambulance, caring for her and informing the hospital we are coming! Think ahead as it may not be about transfer, it may be getting some clothes on to go for a walk outside. Put a comfy pair of shoes and a loose track suit ready near the box.
Kent Midwifery Practice
NB Virginia has now developed the Howes Birth Mirror, which is a stainless-steel mirror, angled to make it easier for mother or midwife to watch the baby.
More suggestions from midwife Mary Cronk are on a separate page, together with a list of the equipment which Mary takes to births.
There is a UK company selling boxed sets for home birth - see www.homebirthkits.com/
Mary Cronk's Website
Virginia Howes - Kent Midwifery Practice
Virginia Howes and Kay Hardie are campaigning to make Independent Midwives' services freely available to all women on their website, Kent Midwifery Practice.
Howes Birth Mirror, a stainless-steel mirror, angled to make it easier for mother or midwife to watch the baby.
Virginia Howes has contributed to this website on several other subjects - mess at a homebirth, and induction of labour.
You might also find the pages on Practical Preparation for Home Birth, Home Birth Plans and Antenatal Preparation for Home Birth interesting.
This page updated 2 November 2008.
Home Birth Reference Page