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Fewer women are giving birth at home

Posted: 10 November 2011 by Robert Dabrowski

There has been a fall in the number of women having home births, data published today reveals.

Home birth rates decline
In England 16,919 women (2.5%) had a home birth last year, out of 679,638 births, which is down from 2.7% in 2009.

Wales has the highest proportion of women having home births – 1,236 (3.5%) out of 35,617 births. However, this is still is a decrease from 2009.
In Scotland, 824 women (1.4%) had a home birth, from 59,082 births and provisional figures from Northern Ireland, suggest that about 0.4% of women had home births.

The age group with the greatest proportion of women giving birth at home was women aged 35–39, with 3.5% of women in this age group giving birth at home.

Women aged under 20 had the lowest proportion of home births, with 1% of women giving birth at home in 2010. 

The figures have been released by the Office of National Statistics.

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the RCM, said: ‘This continues a disappointing trend and one that we want to see reversed.
‘I have no doubt that this fall is related to cost-cutting within the NHS which sees resources pulled out of the community and into the hospitals, all of which is going against this government’s commitment to bring services closer to home.
‘Most women could have a home birth and we need to see maternity services recognising this and putting resources into making it happen.

‘It can be done and there are many examples across the UK where it is being done very successfully, if the will is there and the midwives have the support of the people holding the purse strings.
‘If finance is an issue, which of course it is, then improving the home birth service will deliver greater choice and satisfaction for women, and will also be a more effective use of resources, keeping women out of hospital where they are more likely to experience interventions such as caesarean sections.’

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser for the NCT, said: ‘It is disappointing to see this further reduction in the number of women giving birth at home in England, as we know that up to 11% of pregnant women plan and hope for a home birth.

‘The benefits of one-to-one care from a known and trusted midwife, no travelling in labour and the chance to give birth in a private, relaxing, family environment make home birth an attractive choice for many women.’