Fertility and pregnancy * Babies and children * Women's health

UK's top midwife demands support for home births

UK s top midwife demands support for home births Wants government to honour its promises

The UK's top midwife has called on the country's coalition government to clarify its position about home births.

Cathy Warwick,, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said the new government had taken no steps to honour their pre-election promise for adequately staffed maternity services for 3,000 more midwives.

She noted that the previous government's policy was to guarantee that women in England will have a choice of where they want to give birth by the end of 2009.

Ms Warwick expressed concern that the government's pledges are being undermined: "We feel that there is a concerted and calculated backlash by sectors of the establishment against homebirth and midwife-led care.

"There is a danger that risk during childbirth is presented in a way which leads women to believe that hospital birth guarantees a safe birth – it does not; there is no evidence that a woman will have a safer birth in a hospital than at home."

The NHS says planned home births are safe for healthy women with healthy pregnancies.

This was confirmed in a recent US study, which looked at US and European studies covering 342,056 planned home births and 207,551 planned hospital births.

However, the same research found that the mortality risk to newborns in complication-free pregnancies is three times higher in home births, when compared to hospital births.

Seismic shift in provision needed

Ms Warwick said a "seismic shift" is required in the way maternity services are organised if targets are to be met.

She claimed that the NHS is not prepared to meet the potential demand for homebirths, as the current medical culture sees childbirth as a "medical" event and not a natural process.

In parts of the country where homebirths are properly resourced, women are more likely to choose this option, Ms Warwick said.

"I worry for the care of mothers and babies born in 2011 because the needs and concerns of pregnant women are greater than ever before and maternity services are stretched and almost near breaking point."

This article was published on Wed 29 December 2010

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