Home birth safety claims disputed

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Pregnant woman. Pic © Canwest News / Wikimedia Commons

Pregnant woman. Pic © Canwest News / Wikimedia Commons

A Liverpool midwife has claimed that the media has misinterpreted recent claims that home births are a safer option than hospital.

Recent widely-reported advice suggested women with a low risk of birthing complications are better off having home births rather than in a labour ward.

This means that some 315,000 women a year would be able to give birth with a midwife’s help at home or in a unit. Currently, nine out of 10 babies are delivered in hospital under the care of a physician.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence brought out the guidance after reviewing evidence of pregnant females in England and Wales who have had uncomplicated pregnancies. Low-risk women were found to have more uncomplicated pregnancies whilst in their home or midwife-led units as opposed to maternity areas of the hospital.

But JMU’s senior midwifery lecturer, Jane Rooney, said the media showed a lack of understanding of a midwife’s role, the care women are offered and the choices women make about how maternity services are run in the UK.

Rooney told JMU Journalism: “There are a number of issues contained both in the reports, and regarding the way that this research has been presented in the media over the past few days. Some of the research is not new, and certainly is not news to midwives that homebirth is considered the safer option.

“If all women who could opt for homebirth wanted one – we would need to employ more midwives to expand services in the community, especially as most trusts require two midwives at homebirth.”

She said all midwives should be able to have an informed discussion with a pregnant woman and her family regarding the place of the child’s birth and the risks that come with it.

Home births led my midwives can be costly with the NHS finding that the average cost for a home birth was, at its lowest, £1,066.

Rooney added: “The issue of cost is not a foremost consideration here. It is outcomes, choice and continuity of care and birth experience. Midwives are highly skilled, trained and knowledgeable health professionals who care for women in all birth environments, regardless of risk.   The midwife is the lead professional in most cases. Nothing we do is without risk and these have to balance in our discussion with the woman.”

About Amy Holdsworth, JMU Journalism