I hear some parents express concern about having a home birth because of how messy they anticipate it will be and how hard to clean up.
Friends, birth is a little messy no matter where it happens, but it’s really not THAT messy. And the cleanup is quite simple if there’s careful use of disposable chux pads and old towels.
If you use a midwife, she will be on top of switching out spill-catching pads/towels from beneath the laboring mama so subtly and quickly that you’ll hardly notice. And I’ve yet to meet a midwife who doesn’t clean up FOR you. You won’t even be able to tell anything happened by the time she’s finished.
What if you’re having an unassisted birth? Well, then you (or your partner or a doula or a friend) also can learn to use chux pads and towels. If your partner or family and friends are not up for being in charge of that kind of job or the clean-up of bodily fluids afterward, you might consider inviting a freebirth-supporting doula or birthkeeper to join your team. She will likely be happy to serve you in those very practical ways in addition to providing priceless emotional support, physical comfort, and space-holding characteristic of doulas and birthkeepers.
Pro tip: anything that gets blood on it, which you don’t want to dispose of, can be relatively easily “saved” by dousing it in hydrogen peroxide before laundering.
Now let’s break down the elements of the mess. What kinds of stuff will need to be cleaned up? (continued after photo).
I think we imagine birth being very bloody when in fact it often isn’t. Especially at home, blood loss tends to be minimal. At max, a typical home birth mama will lose about 1 -2 cups of blood and fluid (2 cups is tipping into hemorrhage territory and is rare). But I have had and attended many home births that had far less than that. The blood comes from either maternal tearing (which doesn’t even happen most of the time) or the separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. This blood will all be “caught” in the chux pads or old towels, or the birth pool in case of waterbirth.
Yup, the majority of women will poop at some point during their labor, often close to or during the pushing stage. How much poop there really depends on how much her system has cleared out in advance of labor beginning. But this can be easily wiped away by an attendant with a wet wipe as it comes out, or just allowed to fall to the ground or into the pool water (a small fishnet is wise to have on hand for scooping poop out of the water).
3. Amniotic fluid.
The clear liquid that surrounds the baby in utero will at some point also come out. Sometimes it’s in a burst all at once early in labor, soaking everything in its path. Other times it’s a slow ongoing trickle, and often it bursts right as the baby is about to be born. Again, these fluids usually are effectively absorbed by the chux pads and towels placed underneath the laboring mama, or come out into the birth pool waters. This fluid does not stain and has only the mildest of scents.
The baby’s first poop may happen in utero, in which case the amniotic fluid will be “stained” a pea soup green color (as you can see in this photograph). The baby will also have another meconium bowel movement (or several) within the first few hours. This is a very thick, black, sticky substance and can be messy to clean up from the baby’s skin as well as whatever else it touches. Wet wipes work just fine of cleaning up the baby. Towels or blankets that get it on them will need some special laundry help, but it’s not impossible. Before putting the first diaper on the baby, you can use an arnica massage oil or a bit of olive oil on the baby’s bottom so that the next meconium poop doesn’t stick quite as much to the bottom.
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