- My three kids were all homebirths (they’re adults now and I’m a nana)
- One of my dearest friends is (or was) a homebirth midwife
- Two of the Homeopaths I work with have also been homebirth mums
- In my world, homebirth is almost the norm
- A quick look at statistics in Australia quietly reminds me that a growing number of parents choose homebirth but it is far from being the norm. Of nearly 300,000 babies born in 2009 in Australia there were 863 planned homebirths
- You can imagine my delight when I read a recent study in the UK, which declared “homebirth: safer and cheaper.”
In the UK, from the early 1990s onwards, government policy about birthing has moved towards giving women with straightforward pregnancies, a choice of places to give birth. There has been much debate about the benefits and risks of birth in different settings: homebirth, midwifery unit or obstetric unit. When trying to work out the effect that the birth setting has on birthing outcomes there has been a problem, because the actual place of birth has been studied rather than the planned place of birth. A landmark study by University of Oxford researchers was conducted with 64,000 birthing women, looking at their planned place of birth.
The study compared low risk births planned at home; in freestanding midwifery units; and in “alongside midwifery units” (midwife led hospital units with an obstetric unit) with births planned in obstetric units. The study found that it was preferable that women with a low risk of complications should have a homebirth (or use a midwifery unit) because it was a healthy and cost-effective option for the mother & the infant.
Homebirth: may be the safer and cheaper option for those women who already have given birth.
“The findings of the birthplace study may encourage women – particularly women having a second or subsequent baby – to request an ‘out of hospital’ birth. And the potential for cost savings could make offering women more choice an attractive option for the NHS.” The study included births in obstetric units, midwifery units located in the same hospital as an obstetric unit, free-standing midwifery units and home.
The likelihood of a ‘normal’ birth (one without interventions) was reduced for mothers planning births in an obstetric unit.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has previously said that estimating the cost-effectiveness of places of birth should be a priority area for research. The study is published in the British Medical Journal.
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