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Homebirth with ME

Here are some extracts from discussions about homebirth and ME on the Homebirth UK email group - reproduced with permission from the authors.

Jennifer Vaudin

Jennifer planned a homebirth for her first child, but transferred to hospital because of high blood pressure (birth stories). She gave birth to her second child at home. She has ME, and discusses here how it affected her homebirth choice.

I remember my first midwifery contact with the then community midwifery manager who visited me at home. We'd had this discussion about my request for direct midwife booking and at the end she said something about my general health and and I swallowed hard and said "Well, I do have ME..." to which her response was "Oh, I can definitely see why you'd want a home birth then" :-)

My consultant too was particularly good in respect of the ME, though I could have done with more understanding about how hard going to appointments was, but I got pipped at the post by pre-eclampsia the day before my due date (after weeks of the midwives wanting me to change to hospital and me feeling it was wrong, I knew in a moment that it felt right but sad to go in - a very different feeling to all that pressure). In hospital there seemed to be no acknowledgment of the ME at all - we did make my husband staying in with me all the time a condition of agreeing to induction, but I think that was just a response to a firm couple :-)

I have a few issues with aspects of my treatment and there are a few things I would have done differently but I had a good birth. It is possible to kneel (OK, flop over a bean bag and the raised back of the bed) to birth with an IV and continuous external CTG!

I discharged myself the day after the birth because hospital had started to feel unsafe again.

Jennifer Vaudin


The bottom line is that you should give birth where you feel most comfortable and with the support that you need. I'm sure you realise that having M.E, makes minimising stress even more important to you than it is to other labouring women. If you are drawn to your hospital and you like the team of midwives then that is wonderful. Do what is right for you.

I have M.E. and I sympathise wholeheartedly, but hang in there. I felt rotten until 28 weeks into pregnancy and then the M.E. went into remission. This is to do with the immune suppression that all bodies have to undergo when pregnant and was - to my mind - the best proof going that M.E. is a physical auto-immune disorder and not all the rubbish that the NHS persist in labelling it as.

The wonderful thing was that I was able to spend the last trimester being very active, getting fit (!) for the birth and enjoying life. I believe that over 60 percent of pregnant women with M.E. experience this so there are great odds that you will too!

For me a home birth represented the least stress. Hospitals cause me stress at the best of times so I was delighted that I was consistently advised by AIMs that a home water birth would be the least exhausting. I really wanted to be at home, to have privacy and to be as calm as possible.

I didn't find the hospital to be remotely clued up about M.E. and my CMW was too overfond of "allow" and "wait and see". I could feel myself being railroaded into all kinds of intervention and interference, but then I was lucky enough to find a fantastic Independent Midwife and I would really recommend that you go down that road if you can.

My experience was by no means perfect but I feel that it was still less stressful to me than a hospital controlled birth.

I spent most of my labour at home in the pool - unfortunately my contractions went a bit crazy early on and I spent 4 hours in continuous pain - displaced sacrum and bladder oops - so I did transfer when we ran out of gas and air because I am a wimp and was only 4 cm.

There was really no medical need for transfer though and if I had my time again I'd have made sure that we had enough gas and air and stayed put. They did nothing at the hospital that was helpful or relieved the pain - apart from gas and air. I was very lucky to have my IM there to make sure that my needs were met rather than the hospital protocols though and 2 hours after my baby was born we were home.


Shawn Walker, a doula and trainee midwife:

Hi, just to let you know my experience of two people who have ME. The first hasn't given birth yet, but is going for a home birth for all the usual reasons plus her vulnerability to multiple chemical sensitivities. She understandably feels home birth will be her best option for a labour as drug-free as possible and has hired a pool to use at home.

I also recently met a woman with ME who is having her third baby. Although she has had ME for a long time, and my understanding is that typically symptoms improve over time, she is going for a home birth this time. She had her first two in hospital, the first with pharmacological pain relief, the second with no pharmacological pain relief. She far preferred the second, and while this is consistent with most people's experiences of 1st v 2nd labours, she seemed to feel it was due in a large part to her sensitivities to the drugs first time around.

I don't know much about ME in general, but it sometimes seems to go hand in hand with increased drug sensitivities. Must be a very vulnerable place to be if this is the case -- to a certain degree dependent on help from informal and formal sources but also slightly at odds with the traditional methods of 'help.' I hope that you find a solution which you are comfortable with and which works for you!

'peace on earth begins with birth'


Birth Stories from People with ME

Jennifer Vaudin


Clair has been disabled by ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for many years. She had a c-section for her first baby, but planned a homebirth for her second. She ended up transferring to hospital for another c-section, but still had a positive experience. For her third baby, Samuel, she was determined that things would be different ... and they were!


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