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Home births as safe as hospital, UK

Date: 25 November 2011
Source: The Guardian

A study of more than 64,500 births in England has found that giving birth at home or in a midwife-led birth centre is just as safe as going into hospital for women who already have a child, but there is a slight extra risk of problems for the babies of first-time mothers who opt to stay at home. Women with low-risk pregnancies should have the right to choose where they want to give birth, conclude the authors of the research.

The report found that adverse outcomes for the baby, such as still birth, were rare in women who had low-risk pregnancies and there were no significant differences between hospital obstetric units and elsewhere. There was an increase of nearly 3% in the risk of an adverse outcome for babies of first-time mothers at home, although the study was not able to identify which aspects of the care or site contributed to this.

The study also found the experience for the woman was very different between hospital and other settings, with fewer interventions such as caesarean sections, epidurals for pain relief and forceps deliveries amongst women who had planned to give birth at home or in a birth centre and at least started their care there.

Currently only 4% of women give birth at home and midwife-led birth centres are available in only half the areas of England.