A home birth can be one of the most comfortable and peaceful ways to deliver a baby. Many medical professionals agree that it can alleviate some of the mental burdens on the mother while allowing the whole family to form stronger bonds. However, home births in Hong Kong are rare for logistical, legal and safety reasons.
Why home births are not popular in Hong Kong
Some families choose not to have a home birth because they have been given an incorrect or negative outlook on home birth requirements, such as that a policeman has to be present. While this is not true, there are many factors to take into consideration when opting for a home birth.
Home births are not encouraged by the Hong Kong Midwives Association, as well as the Nursing Council of Hong Kong. Most Hong Kong midwives are also reluctant to perform a home baby delivery, largely due to no availability of physicians in case of emergency; however, the presence of physicians during home delivery is extremely difficult to organise due to insurance restraints and the busy schedules of medical professionals.
Are home births legal in Hong Kong?
Although not encouraged and often more challenging to organise, home births are safe (if done with the help of an experienced midwife) and absolutely legal in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, there are many misunderstandings about home births in Hong Kong. One of the most common myths is that you need a policeman present during home labour.
‘You need two witnesses to the baby delivery, usually the husband and myself,’ says Hulda Thorey, registered HK midwife and director and founder of Annerley. ‘It is a myth that a police officer is required to attend a planned home delivery. This is only mandatory in an unexpected home delivery when an ambulance is called for.’
While home births are legal in Hong Kong, the risk factors can be discouraging. For this reason, not all families should opt for giving birth at home. Talk to a midwife about home birth to find out whether this is a safe option for you.
What to expect from a home baby delivery
Home birth preparation should be treated with caution in Hong Kong as the environment often presents special logistical problems. ‘In the rare event of an emergency, you have to consider that transport can be a problem since ambulances and ambulance staff are ill-equipped or trained to handle emergencies,’ says Thorey. ‘Location must also be a consideration – even down to the size of the lift, as you don’t want to try to squeeze a woman on a gurney, in the throes of labour in an emergency into a tiny lift.’
An ideal candidate for a home birth is a healthy mother, who is expecting her 2nd or 3rd delivery, is considered low risk with a healthy pregnancy, has good home support – and lives near a hospital. Thorey says, ‘I would also want to be sure that she had realistic expectations so that there wouldn’t be any resistance if we did need to transfer to a hospital’.
How to prepare for giving birth at home
When considering a home birth, you need to also think about ensuring you will be complying with all the regulations set by the Immigration Department. To prove that the baby was born in Hong Kong, the birth has to be documented with a set of before, during and after photographs showing among other things the umbilical cord connected, and the delivery location.
Besides a camera, little equipment is required for planned home delivery and your midwife will most likely have everything prepared for you. The midwife will provide items such as a clamp for the cord and disinfectant, but also equipment that may or may not be required; for example, a TENS machine, equipment for administering stitches, a suction pump, and oxygen for the baby. Additionally, some mothers may choose to rent a birthing pool, in which case, a liner would be required – and possibly modifications to the plumbing.
What alternatives are there to home delivery?
Every mother wants the delivery of their baby to go smoothly and preferably in the most peaceful, homely environment possible. If you and your doctor decide that home delivery is not ideal for your pregnancy for any reason, you will have to consider other alternatives. While no option is ideal, as private hospital beds are often overbooked and public hospitals do not offer customised birth plans, our team has years of experience when it comes to helping future mums get the best care possible during delivery.
Help at OT&P Annerley
At Annerley, we are fortunate enough to have an amazing team that has both experience and confidence when it comes to assisting at home births in Hong Kong. If you’re looking for more information on natural birth methods and support, our midwives are here to help. You can browse our extensive maternity packages, or get in contact with us to learn more about our classes, workshops & consultations.
This article is based on an interview with midwife Hulda Thorey on the subject of home deliveries that was featured in the March 2012 issue of Playtimes Magazine.