My experience of transferring from home birth to hospital

by Suzanne Jackson

Suzanne's first baby, Amber, was born in January 2000 in the UK. Amber's birth story is also on this site..

The midwife recommended transfer as my labour had been a long one (21 hours total). I was at home for the majority of it, transferring in the early evening and Amber was born at just gone 9pm. Whilst in labour I found I was not happy sitting down so I spent a good 10-12 hours on my feet, which was very tiring. Having had no sleep beforehand, I did not feel in a position to question the midwife as thoroughly as I should have.

The midwife who persuaded me to transfer was one I had seen previously and was unhappy with during late pregnancy. (Indeed when she first came to replace the earlier midwife my blood pressure shot through the roof just at seeing her.) Interesting footnote is that my initial argument with her was that she was too rough when giving me antenatal examinations - having seen her since to weigh Amber I still feel this!

During the labour I felt she did not have full confidence in me, or me in her, and this I am sure hindered my ability to feel I could cope. I found that my attempts to discuss what positions I would like to be in as things got more intense, etc., fell on deaf ears. Just silly things like the midwife not actually looking at me when I was speaking to her and constantly scribbling in my notes - I know they have to but, oh, it wound me up so much!

Anyway when she first discussed transferring it was because the labour was taking so long. She said at this stage it was best to break the waters which meant the contractions would get a lot more intense and my pain relief options were obviously more limited at home. There was also something mentioned about baby not being in quite the right position although I did have a 'normal' vaginal delivery so I'm not quite sure how much of an effect this had.

My reasons for wanting to transfer were less to do with the pain aspect, as in the transitional stage I managed without pain relief anyway, and more to do with the fact I was not confident with that particular midwife delivering my baby. I had wanted to feel some kind of rapport with her - at the very least trust her, and she made me very nervous. I even insisted on Tony being present whenever she was with me, having voiced my fears to him, in case she did something I was not happy with.

I was very very nervous about transferring as previous 'bad' hospital experiences had left me with a deep (and sometimes irrational) dread of a hospital environment. Oddly though I was quite happy with the labour experience. Looking back, I certainly have no complaints about the way it was dealt with. If I'm honest I credit that to the fact that I had full faith in the midwife who looked after me once I got the hospital. I felt that she was actually going to the trouble of helping me to have the birth I wanted. She was very helpful about getting me into better positions etc. . I think if that midwife had come round to my house as labour started there would have been little question of transferring.

Note from Angela: For your options if you think a particular midwife does not support you, see 'What if you don't get along with your midwife?

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

I think it is important to research it very thoroughly and to have the strength to back up your decision. I made the mistake I think of being intimidated!

Be open-minded, and give thought to the very real possibility of transferring. I hadn't really wanted to think about it, and as such had not planned as well as I should. This was painfully obvious when in hospital with my bag packed 'just-in'case' and minus all the things I had kept thinking I would put in later. So I was without clean socks, breast pads, toothbrush, flannel - even nappies!

Prepare well in advance so that, when you are at home and labour begins, you are immediately as comfortable as you can be - ie, have birth balls or TENS (batteries already in!) at home and other 'comfort aids' where they can easily be reached. Do whatever you feel comfortable with as labour begins: walk around, shower, lay down, if you can!

I would recommend doing the hospital tour as, then, if you do transfer it will at least be familiar. It was actually the midwife who ended up delievering Amber who conducted the hospital tour when we went (although in a different hospital!) and it was the first thing I said to her when being wheeled in - that I remembered her from the tour! That kind of familiarity, be it a face or a place is, I think, very helpful.

What advice would you give to other mothers who do end up transferring?

Keep your options open. Be definite on what type of birth you want but, if circumstances dictate, be prepared to change your mind.

Make sure your partner is also fully aware of what you want and prepared to back you up should you be unable to make your wishes known. I had discussed my birthplan with Tony many times and this proved to be a Godsend as, whilst I was intimidated by the midwife at home and unable to say quite what I wanted, Tony did this for me!

I think my main advice, whether at home or at hospital is to try and relax - not to see the transfer as a 'negative' thing as sometimes it is neccessary, or the best decision you can make.

I know I could have had Amber at home as nothing was done at hospital that couldn't have been done here - but, by transferring I had the benefit of Amber being delivered by someone I liked and trusted - and that, I think, is more important that the environment I was in.

My main disappointment in transferring was having to stay in hospital. I was only in for a day and a half but I just felt like I wanted to be alone with my family. Having gone through something as special as having a baby I found it hard that Tony had to leave at night also. I had pictured, after my homebirth, my tony and the baby all snuggling up in the bed together and the reality; Tony at home, me in the hospital bed and Amber in those horrible 'fish tank' units was very different. I almost resented all the nurses as I felt they were interrupting 'our' time.

You can discharge yourself and your baby at any time after giving birth in hospital, regardless of whether the staff say you 'must' wait until you have been given the all-clear to go. Some women do go home after a just a couple of hours in the hospital. However, it is understandable that after giving birth, many women simply do not want to have to argue about this.

I don't count my homebirth or the fact that I tried as a negative thing, or feel as though I failed. I did spend the majority of my labour at home and I enjoyed the freedom that gave me - of a familiar friendly enviornment in contrast to stark hospital one.

We have a friend, baby due in may, who wants a homebirth. Her first child was born in hospital after an emergency transfer and, although she did not want to talk about it I gather it was a horrible experience. I'm lucky in that I don't feel my transfer was.

Hope this helps

Suzanne and Tony's Homepage

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