By Robert Virtue.
While giving birth in a hospital remains the most popular option for mothers in New South Wales, a few hundred women choose to give birth in their homes each year.
Anne Turner is the mother of three children, one of whom was born at home, and is a committee member of the Hunter Positive Birth Support Group based in the Newcastle area.
The group aims to offer peer support, information, and an opportunity for pregnant women and mothers to share their experiences.
“We want women to feel allowed to enjoy that [birthing] experience, and to find ways that they’re going to be able to enjoy that experience, rather than being frightened of it or having it over-medicalised,” Ms Turner said.
“A lot of women feel that it’s a normal life event, and where they live is where they want to birth.
“It’s a very big difference for women who’ve birthed in hospital and home.
“[They] will talk about how different it feels to just be in your own space; you feel often a greater sense of control, more relaxed, safer.”
Homebirthing regulated to ensure safety
In the Hunter Valley, Hunter New England Health (HNEH) operates the Belmont Midwifery Group Practice (BMGP), which in turn runs a publicly-funded homebirth program.
It is open to women who have no identified birthing risks and are booked into the BMGP.
The group said it followed strict guidelines and was in constant contact with obstetricians.
In NSW in 2014 there were 228 planned homebirths and 30 homebirths that ended in hospital admissions.
In the HNEH district in 2014, there were 72 planned homebirths and nine homebirths that resulted in hospital admissions.