When considering a home birth, many mommas immediately start thinking about the mess. There seems to be a common misconception that giving birth in your own home results in a hazmat area you’ll spend weeks cleaning. Well, I’m here to let you know that this couldn’t be further from the truth!

Is home birth messy? Well, Momma, birth, in general, does involve some bodily fluids and blood, but with some foresight and (easy) preparation your home birth mess will be well contained and easy to clean. Often within just a few hours of birth, your home will be completely back to normal.

What’s more, your fabulous midwife and birthing team will take on the brunt of the initial clean-up before they leave you to heal and bond with your beautiful newborn.

To keep your home birth mess to a minimum, and prep for an easy clean-up you’ll want to have plastic coverings to protect rugs and furniture, a high-quality mattress protector, Chux pads, extra towels and sheets, and the right cleaning supplies at the ready.

Looking for some must-know tips to handling your home birth clean-up, look no further! Everything you need to know is right here.

How messy is home birth?

Often mommas considering home birth are most put off by the idea of the mess. Even if they know the many pros of home birth when it comes to outcomes for themselves and baby and like the idea of birthing in a familiar and intimate setting, they ultimately choose a different birth setting.

But why? Home birth does require some foresight and supply gathering to keep the mess under control but is actually totally manageable. In most cases, home birth results in very little mess! Usually within an hour or two of giving birth your home is restored to its pre-birth state, ready for all the snuggles and bonding with your newborn.

In fact, while prepping and organization prior to birth to aid in the clean-up will be primarily your responsibility, the after clean-up is something that your home birth midwife will take care of. She will dispose of what needs to be disposed of, clean-up surfaces and supplies, and start a load of laundry for anything planned to be washed and re-used.

What can you expect in terms of home birth mess?

There will be some bodily fluids lost and blood to be expected, but all of this is surprisingly easy to contain with strategically placed tarps or shower curtains, mattress protectors, and Chux pads (large, disposable pads). Most important is to cover upholstered furniture and rugs. You can protect your bed with a high-quality mattress protector and Chux pads.

Having extra sets of old sheets and towels on hand is also helpful so that you can you change out soaked or dirty linens throughout your birth should you begin to feel uncomfortable or if the mess needs to be addressed.

How many towels do I need at my home birth?

The question of towels at your home birth is so commonly discussed when it comes to preparing your home for home birth its worth addressing directly. Many think towels will be the key to home birth clean-up. Yes, having some on hand is a great idea, but most home birth “veterans” rave about the use of Chux pads and shower curtain liners as their first line of mess containing defense.

So for a land birth, 2-4 large towels and a robe is likely all you need for getting in and out of the shower, and if you want, to place over a liner for comfort on the couch or other furniture. Additionally, 2-4 smaller towels for catching and cleaning off baby is a good idea. But don’t be surprised if you don’t end up using all of these!

For a water birth, you will want to have more towels on hand. In a home water birth, you can expect to be in and out of the birth pool quite a bit for various reasons. Others will also be around the birth pool providing support.

Having towels on the floor to avoid slipping, towels for drying the birth team, and lots of clean dry towels for you will be essential. 10-12 towels are recommended for a water birth.

What kind of towels should I get for my home birth?

The towels that you use during labor to stay warm and dry when you are getting in and out of the tub do not need to be special. Actually, large fuzzy towels will probably make you the most comfortable, or you can just use the towels you have in your home anyway.

Towels intended for catching and wiping off baby, to be used on top of liners on furniture, or to clean yourself after your water birth should either be old towels you don’t care about, or towels that are dark in color. Many mommas choose to get dark-colored, used towels from thrift stores for this purpose. This is because these towels will likely wind up stained.

10 Home birth clean-up tips

Now that we’ve discussed what you can expect when it comes to the mess after your home birth, and the all-important topic of towels, let’s talk about specific home birth cleaning tips. Like most things, once you’ve had a home birth you learn a lot from experience about what can be done to make your life easier.

Here I’ve compiled the top 10 tips I’ve learned from scouring home birth forums and talking to home birth mommas about what worked best for them.

1. Use shower liners, painting drop cloths or disposable tablecloths for protection

Home birth in general really isn’t that messy, but there is always the possibility of your water breaking in an unexpected space or for the need to push to come on before you expect it. For this reason, it’s best to protect anything fabric in your birthing space with plastic.

I’m mainly talking about upholstered furniture and rugs here. When you are preparing your birthing space, if you have area rugs it might be easiest to roll them up and store them safely until after your birth. This way, you don’t even have to worry about protecting them.

Cheap shower curtain liners are the go-to for many home birthing mommas. They cover a large area, won’t break the bank, and you won’t feel bad about tossing them after the fact. Others find plastic disposable table cloths to be great.

Laboring and moving around on plastic liners won’t exactly give you the warm and intimate vibe you’re likely going for during your home birth, so second-hand sheets or old towels draped over the plastic liners make a big difference.

Melissa recommends using plastic backed painting drop cloths because of their felt like surface. It was much less slippery and far more comfortable to move around on than bare plastic. Flipping over a disposable table cloth may have the same effect.

2. Chux Pads are your home birth best friend

Chux pads (which I’ve definitely mentioned at least 7 times already in this article!) are large, disposable, absorbent pads that typically catch most of the mess during home birth. They are a must-have as you complete your home birth supply list.

You will want these under you when you give birth in your bed (or other location) and also if you are laboring on furniture (even protected furniture) when your water breaks. Your midwife may also place them under you if you choose to have progress checks done. After the fact, Chux Pads are good to keep under your body for the first few postpartum days when bleeding can be significant.

3. Hydrogen peroxide lifts blood stains best

Hydrogen peroxide is another must-have in your home birth supply stash. This is because nothing works better on blood stains! Should some birth “mess” somehow wind up on your carpet or fabric you didn’t intend to stain, hydrogen peroxide will get it out.

Simply apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide directly to the stain and watch as it disappears. To be safe, test a hidden patch of your carpet or fabric with hydrogen peroxide first, because in some cases it can have a bleaching effect.

4. Have large tubs lined with trash bags for trash and laundry

To make your home birth clean-up a breeze for your midwife and birthing team, set up two large plastic bins ahead of time. Line them with large black trash bags and label one for trash and one for laundry. This will make it easy to sort things after birth and get a load of linens going right away.

Having these on hand will also be handy during the birth as you use towels, switch sheets, or change Chux pads, soiled items will have clearly labeled places to go.

5. Use secondhand linens

One way to save money on your home birth, and put your mind at ease when it comes to mess and stains is to get secondhand linens. This way, if the mess is extensive you won’t feel bad about tossing everything after the fact.

Don’t let the idea of secondhand put you off. After purchasing, wash in hot water with detergent and tumble dry on high heat. Your midwife will recommend that you do this to all linens to sterilize them before birth anyway.

After cleaning your linens, put them into large brown paper bags, tape them shut and clearly label them for use during birth. To make your life (and your birthing team’s) easier during birth, bag like items together so that it’s easy to grab what is needed.

6. Prepare your home birth bed carefully

Protecting your mattress during home birth is important, mattresses are expensive after all! But this can be achieved easily with the right home birth bed preparation. As soon as your active labor begins, you should get your bed prepped with your sterilized linens (see above).

You will want to layer your bed like this:

  1. Cover your mattress with a waterproof mattress protector (it’s a good idea to do this step a few weeks before you’re due to protect your mattress should your water break in bed!)
  2. Put on a clean set of sheets (these will likely be used for recovery, but possibly during birth should your birthing sheets get so messy they need to be stripped mid-labor)
  3. Put another mattress protector over that set of sheets to protect them so they’re ready to go for recovery
  4. Put sanitized, old or secondhand sheets on the very top for you to give birth in

By taking these steps, your bed will be safe and your home land birth clean-up will be much easier.

7. A water birth will contain virtually all of the mess

If you are still in the planning stages of your home birth, and haven’t yet decided on a land birth or water birth there’s a definite pro for the water birth column. By choosing to give birth in a birth tub all of the mess is contained to the tub. 

Any birth fluids lost, birth ‘debris’, and even your placenta will be stay in the water to be cleaned and addressed in the enclosed space of the birth tub.

8. The placenta could be the “messiest” part of your home water birth

The one exception to what I just mentioned above, is if you choose to deliver your placenta out of the water. Sometimes mommas who have their baby in a birth pool will choose or need to birth their placenta out of the pool.  In this case, the placenta coming out can be the messiest part of your home water birth.

A great way to contain the mess of pushing out the placenta is to sit on a birth stool placed over a large towel and Chux pad to catch the mess.  You’ll also want to have a bowl ready to put the placenta in and as your birth team prepares to cut the umbilical cord. 

And on that note, do you have a plan for your placenta and umbilical cord? Be sure to discuss this with your home birth midwife ahead of time.

9. Tackle draining and cleaning your birth pool like a home birth pro

No home birth clean-up list would be complete without discussing how to tackle cleaning your birth pool.  From the start, putting a liner in your birth pool, especially if its rented or you plan to use it again, is a great way to make cleaning even easier.  In addition to an easier clean-up (simply dispose of the liner after the birth tub is drained) you don’t want your birth pool to be contaminated by your own stool or baby’s meconium.

After you give birth, but before draining your birth pool, any floating debris in the water left over from the birth should be skimmed out.  You can use a colander to get this done, and many swear by the use of a fish tank cleaning net, like this one.

When it comes to actually draining the pool, a drill pump is an inexpensive and effective option for draining it and containing the water to where you want it to go.  Most families choose to drain their pools into the bathtub/shower, or if you own your home, out into your yard. 

Once your pool is completely drained, dispose of the liner if used, and clean the inside of the pool.  You can use warm, soapy water and many think an antibacterial soap is best.  If you use a harsher chemical cleaner it is essential to rinse very, very well so that the next momma using the tub (and her baby!) don’t come into contact with these cleaning agents.

10. Discuss clean-up with your midwife

Cleaning up after birth is something you can expect from most home birth midwives. Their goal is usually to put your home back together as much as possible so that you can peacefully recover and bond with your new baby.

However, don’t take this for granted. It’s best to have a conversation about what to expect in terms of clean-up after your home birth. It’s also a good time to ask her for advice and other tips of what to have on hand or do to make the clean-up after the fact easier for everyone.

Now you know our best home birth clean-up tips

With the tips found in this article, you should be feeling a lot more confident about clean-up after your home birth. And most importantly, not letting the mess deter you from your dream of a home birth!

Preparing your home and birth space ahead of time are important steps in the home birth process. For more advice, don’t stop your reading here! These are must-read articles that couple well with this one:

Have a tip to add to the list? Chime in below to help our readers learn as much as possible about clean-up after their home birth!

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