The Duke and Duchess of Sussex could find themselves trendsetters if they decide to have a home birth for their first child, an antenatal expert has said.
Harry and Meghan are rumoured to be considering having a midwife deliver their baby at their new Berkshire home Frogmore Cottage – which could inspire other mums to do the same.
There is also speculation the couple have picked their own medical team to directly oversee the arrival of the Queen’s latest great grandchild – dispensing with senior medical staff associated with the royal family.
Val Willcox, 50, an antenatal teacher with the NCT (National Childbirth Trust), said: “If Meghan has her baby at home it will be really interesting to see what that does about the home birth rate nationally.
“Because if it’s in the news that somebody high profile has had a home birth and she’s got a lovely baby and everything was fine, it may lead more women to have that conversation with their midwives ‘If she can do it, is that something that I could do?’”
Giving birth at home – a familiar, clean and relaxed environment that feels safe – enables mothers to have a more “straightforward” delivery, said Ms Willcox.
She added: “Going to hospital is where some women feel more relaxed and confident, but for some women going into hospital actually has the opposite effect and will trigger the release of adrenaline which will slow or stop their labour.
“So the choice about where to give birth is a very individual one based on a woman’s individual circumstances and her beliefs and preferences.”
“There’s really good evidence from the birthplace study, that a home birth is both safe and more likely to result in a straightforward birth even if the woman transfers to hospital and ends up giving birth in hospital.”
A woman opting to have her child at home is supported by a midwife, once contractions are regular, who will be joined by another midwife as the birth draws nearer. The option of transferring to a hospital at any time, whether or not there are any problems, is always open to expectant mums.
But Meghan is likely to have a comprehensive list of medical professionals on call, if not at Frogmore Cottage.
The Duchess of Cambridge had Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent – now England’s first Chief Midwife – as her midwife, and in total had a 23-strong team of medical experts and other staff to support the delivery of her children at the private maternity wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London.
Only a handful of midwives and others led by a consultant obstetrician were in the delivery room to supervise the birth of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
But theatre staff were on stand-by along with a lab technician, replacement anaesthetists and paediatricians, a back-up for the consultant along with workers from a special baby care unit.
Meghan is an older prospective mother at the age of 37, but if in good health is likely to be advised a home birth is an option.
Ms Willcox said: “We know the older you get the higher the chances of developing complications in the pregnancy, and for some older women the recommendation to them will be to give birth in hospital – but it is their choice because nobody can force you to go into hospital.
“If Meghan’s been fit and healthy throughout her pregnancy, if she hasn’t developed any complications then she should be considered low risk at the point she goes into labour.”
Kensington Palace declined to comment.