Rumor has it, the third royal baby might be born in the palace, instead of the hospital where the Duchess gave birth to Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
When you think of a home birth, you might picture an inflatable bathtub with lots of plastic sheeting and towels sopping up the fluids, and a midwife helping the laboring mom-to-be breathe through her contractions.
But did you ever picture that pregnant woman wearing a tiara, surrounded by servants, and laboring in a 400-year-old royal palace?
There’s been online chatter about the possibility that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is planning to give birth to Royal Baby #3 at home, either in London’s Kensington Palace, or at Anmer Hall, the country estate in Norfolk she shares with Prince William and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. One London newspaper has even gone so far as to quote an unnamed “royal source,” as saying, “Catherine has said she would love to have her baby at home. She has discussed it with William and he is being very supportive. They both think it would be lovely for the family to have a home birth, particularly for George and Charlotte.”
While any tabloid story quoting an anonymous royal source should be taken with a grain of salt, let’s unpack this intriguing idea, shall we?
First of all, let’s say it’s pretty unlikely. There is a well-established tradition of giving birth to the latest royal babies at St Mary’s Hospital, in the Westminster neighborhood of Paddington: Not only were George and Charlotte born there, but so was their dad, Prince William, their uncle Prince Harry, and royal cousins Peter and Zara Phillips (not to mention celebs including Elvis Costello and Kiefer Sutherland).
In addition, Kate’s pregnancies have not exactly been smooth sailing. She’s suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness, during all her pregnancies, requiring hospitalization early on to make sure she stayed healthy and hydrated.
However, her two previous births proceeded without complications, and as many moms can attest, by the time you’re having your third, your body pretty much knows what to do on its own. It’s likely that if Kate did choose to have a home birth, she would be attended in the palace of her choice by the medical team of three midwives, two OBs, and more than a dozen other specialists that reportedly surrounded her when George and Charlotte were born. (When the Duchess of Cambridge calls, you cancel all other plans!) What she wouldn’t have there: immediate access to a neonatal ICU in case of any complications.
A few other reasons Kate might actually consider a home birth: Before William became the first heir to the British throne born in a hospital it was a royal tradition. If you watched season 2 of The Crown, you would have seen Queen Elizabeth deliver her fourth child, Prince Edward, at home in Buckingham Palace while her husband, Prince Philip, looked on queasily from the other side of the room. Queen Victoria also gave birth to all nine of her children at home, famously singing the praises of chloroform to knock her out during two of her later deliveries.
The main reasons being bandied about for Kate and Will to stay at home when the baby arrives in April is to avoid the media circus that inevitably engulfs the hospital after any Royal birth, not only making it difficult for the family to enjoy some peace in those first hours after the new baby arrives, but also causing massive headaches for hospital staff members and other non-royal patients to come and go from the hospital.
And the fact is, for an uncomplicated pregnancy attended by a qualified midwife or physician, studies have shown that a home birth can be as safe a choice as a hospital birth. In a large British study of four different birth settings, by the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery and Organisation, the researchers concluded, “For multiparous women [women who have already had at least one birth], there were no significant differences in adverse perinatal outcomes between planned home births or midwifery unit births and planned births in obstetric units.”
So, maybe the rumor isn’t so crazy after all. At the very least, it gives the inquiring public one more thing to guess about other than the new royal baby’s name.