My experience of transferring from a home birth

Sam Newman

Sam lives in Oxfordshire, UK. She planned a home birth for her first baby, Milly, but transferred in the first stage of labour. Milly was born on 4 September 1996

What happened when you transferred?

How was the ambulance journey? Was it a true emergency transfer, ie were you or the baby at risk? Was it an ER-style drama?

It wasn't a matter of life and death - although they did use the siren to get us through rush hour traffic. I had got to 8cm dilated with a difficult presentation (Milly was in the posterior position), then went back to about 5cm. The midwife (who I know and trust) sensed that it was going to be a long time (it was) and that I was tiring, and asked what I wanted to do. Once I knew it was not straightforward, I chose to go in for an epidural. There is more of a risk with non-straightforward deliveries, and I wasn't prepared to risk it - or much more pain!

I just about managed to get myself out of the birthing pool, whereupon they wrapped me in a blanket and put me on a trolley to go in the ambulance. I have no recollection of being put on the trolley.

The journey was pretty horrible because I was strapped down and no longer in the pool. The worst thing was that I had asked the midwife to "book" my epidural so that it was ready when I got there. When we arrived, the hospital staff wanted me to labour for another hour before they'd give me an epidural - to assess me. My mum and husband were too frightened to come and tell me! Thankfully, another midwife pooh-pooed this, and rustled up an anaesthetist pretty quickly.

Milly was born with the help of forceps about 8 hours after Sam transferred to hospital, and after the epidural had allowed her to rest for a few hours.

How did you feel about having transferred?

I felt awful afterwards, but less so now. It was made worse by the medical problems experienced by me and baby in the postnatal period which required prolonged hospitalisation. I had severe and long-lasting problems with my bladder and urethra after the birth, and Milly suffered from dehydration and spent four days in Special Care.

What advice would you give to other mothers planning a home birth?

I'd say go for it with my blessing. Be strong. But consider that a percentage of women do need help. I would suggest that you have a bag packed, and do a hospital tour, and make plans in case of transfer just to be on safe side - but have faith in your ability. If you go mountain climbing you'd be considered foolish if you didn't take equipment in case you got into difficulty, and I think the same applies to homebirth.

I hope my daughter tries, and I would again - if I was assured the same problems would not reoccur. Which I'm not.

Sam booked a hospital birth for her second baby so her bladder and urethra could be carefully monitored, but problems presented themselves before she even went into labour. She chose to have a caesarean to avoid the possibility of permanent damage, which she was warned could result from a second birth.

What advice would you give any other mum who does end up transferring?

The guilt and pain will go. Once you get through the immediate emotional bit you can be more rational about it, and remember that birth is a couple of days in a lifetime. It's sad, but not worth destroying yourself over. You did your best - it is not your fault that you had problems. It will pass.

One practical tip - should the unfortunate event of transfer by ambulance happen to you. Take care how you are strapped on to the trolley. If you have to be strapped in for safety reasons, make sure that you are on your side rather than on your back. This made a big difference to me during contractions. I would suggest putting this in your birthplan.

Sam Newman
Oxfordshire, UK

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