Home births: Women need help to make the right choice

Giving birth at home is just as safe as being in a hospital for second-time mums but women having their first baby are at risk

Giving birth at home is just as safe as being in a hospital for second-time mums but women having their first baby are at risk, according to a new study.

Following years of debate on the safest place to give birth, researchers are now saying that women with low-risk pregnancies should be given the choice to give birth at home.

Researchers at the University of Oxford found birth complications for second-time mothers to be extremely rare with adverse outcomes occurring in just 4.3 births per 1,000 with no significant difference between those who had their babies at home versus those who were in hospital.

However, this figure raised to 9.3 births at home compared to 5.3 in hospital for first time mothers.

‘This could be to do with the sort of women who chose home birth, the midwife’s experience, problems in transferring to the hospital or something else entirely,’ explains Professor Peter Brocklehurst who led the research.

Couples should now be given the opportunity to discuss births with health professionals, says Brocklehurst – but this means more midwives and doctors will need to be available.

Cathy Warwick from the Royal College of Midwives says women need to recognise that birth complications can occur anywhere, so it is important to choose a place that feels right for the individual.

‘If a woman feels comfortable and secure in the environment, she is likely to feel more in control during birth,’ says spokesperson for the National Childbirth Trust, Mary Newburn.

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