news

Is this really the safest way to deliver your baby?

newborn baby thumb 11

Expectant mothers in the UK are being told that giving birth at home is a safer option, a move that could potentially lead to hundreds of thousands of babies being born without doctors’ supervision.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence last Wednesday updated its advice to women to indicate that if women have had an uncomplicated pregnancy and have already had one child, they should consider giving birth at home with a midwife.

According to the Institute’s clinical practice director, Mark Baker, being at home with the help of a midwife or in a midwife-led clinic can be just as safe as giving birth in a hospital for mothers who’ve previously given birth successfully.

“Over the years, evidence has emerged which shows that, for this group of women, giving birth in a midwife-led unit instead of a traditional labour ward is a safe option,” he said.

“Research also shows that a home birth is generally safer than hospital for pregnant women at low risk of complications who have given birth before.”

However not everyone agrees

Michael Permezel, the president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says they do not support the move to encourage home births as a safer option.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We know that most women want to do the absolutely safest thing, and even a risk of one in 1000 is absolutely too high for the vast majority,” he said.

Despite the risks, the new advice is is expected to garner plenty of support among midwives in both the UK and abroad.

homebirth FB1

The UK’s Royal College of of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists support of the change to recommend home births – but they have stressed the need for emergency support close by in case the need arises.

Here in Australia, Helen Dahlen, the national media spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, claims this crucial change in UK policy is based on scientific research unlike the Australian system which is based on political bias and vested interests.

Ms Dahlen says that Australian midwives still don’t know whether they can attend home births without expensive indemnity insurance.

“We still have no formal information from our Health Minister as to whether it will be illegal for midwives to attend home births after June 30, 2015,” she said.

“Women are now pregnant and due to give birth in July. Should they plan to move to the UK?”

ADVERTISEMENT

The risks of home births have been well-canvassed in Australia

In August this year South Australian police investigated the deaths of two babies in home birth deliveries to identify whether manslaughter charges should be laid.

In January 2012, home birth advocate Caroline Lovell died tragically during the birth of her second child after she went into cardiac arrest. Caroline had been attended by two midwives at her Melbourne home and a spokeswoman for Midwives in Private Practice stressed the rarity of the outcome: “It’s very very rare and it’s just impossible to imagine what might have happened,” she said.

At an inquiry into Caroline’s death earlier this year, the coroner determined that there was no hospital on standby in case something went wrong in the birthing process.

caroline lovell inquest 1
Homebirthing advocate Caroline Lovell died giving birth to her second child in 2012.

Australia is yet to see the prosecution of a midwife or doctor following a home birth.

What ultimately still matters, and should matter, at the end of the day can best be summed up in the words of Hearld Sun columnist Susie O’Brien,

“The problem is that fit, healthy women can still have traumatic, problematic births where things go wrong, and the time it takes to get to an emergency ward can be the difference between life and death.”

Want more information? Try these:

What rights does a mother have when she gives birth at home?

The doctor said this baby may have survived if he was born in hospital.

00:00 / ???