Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Home births cancelled

Posted on: February 11, 2009

Despite Government policy to increase the number of births taking place at home or birthing centres, figures produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of births taking place at home fell from one in three in 1955, to just one in 40 by 2006.  This is partly because the shortage of midwives often means that women are not offered a home birth, or have it cancelled at the last minute and are forced to go into hospital.  Only this week I have heard that homebirths have been cancelled in some areas.

Since 2006 there has been an increase in home births however, despite the rise, only 2.5 per cent of births in 2006 were at home, compared with 30 per cent in the Netherlands.

As a midwife I know that not all women and offered the option of home birth, and there certainly is a shortage of antenatal appointment time to facilitate adequate discussion to enable couples to make an informed choice about where to have their baby.  Indeed in recent years the NICE Antenatal Care Guidelines have recommended a reduction in the number of antenatal visits for low risk women.

With the many benefits to being at home:

* Shorter labours

* Increased likelihood of normal birth

* Less likelihood of needing forceps/ventouse/caesarean

* Less need for pain relief

* More likely to breastfeed

* More likely to be happy with experience

* Less likely to experience postnatal depression

it is hard to understand why more babies are not being born at home.

A common concern from my clients is “what if something goes wrong” – my answer is that things rarely go wrong in a hurry during a labour – midwives are trained to monitor the progress of labour and if things are not progressing normally then it is perfectly possible to calmly transfer to hospital, no drama.  There is no evidence that it is safer for women with low risk pregnancies to give birth in hospital.

Women giving birth at home are more likely to have one-to-one care from a midwife they know and who has contributed to their antenatal care.  This can help labour develop normally, reducing the risk of “failure to progress”, fetal distress and the associated medical interventions.

I often find that during the course of a pregnancy the couple gradually learn more and recognise the benefits of remaining at home.  Another thing I often say is that they can decide where to give birth in labour.  They can start out at home, if things progress well and they feel comfortable they can decide to stay at home, but if at any time they feel they would prefer to transfer to hospital then that is fine.  I believe the best place to give birth is where the mother feels safest and most relaxed and for many women that is at home, after all hospital is not a relaxing, intimate place.

I would encourage you to learn all you can about birth, ask your midwife, attend good birth preparation classes, have a look at and consider having your baby at home.  If your local hospital says that homebirths are cancelled, as difficult as it is I would urge you to tell them that you are having a planned home birth and ask them to send you a midwife.  Unless women (and midwives) get political nothing will improve.

3 Responses to "Home births cancelled"

[…] Home births cancelled « Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog […]

You shouldn’t have to fight for a homebirth, especially while in labour,(which is not an easy thing to do) it shouldn’t be difficult to book one in the first place, and it should be offered and discussed antenatally, otherwise a lot of women won’t even realise it’s an option they can consider. It’s a sad indictment on the state of affairs at the moment that this is often the case.

My friend recently planned a homebirth with her first, a healthy woman with a normal pregnancy. She encountered so much resistance, having already decided for herself that she wanted a homebirth. One midwife actaully laughed at her, and another put hospital on her notes despite her having made it clear that she wanted to birth at home! If midwives are supporting it and offering it and discussing it, then who will?

I’m not surprised by this to be honest. I tried so hard to have my dream home water birth with my first three children and was bullied and bribed into hospital each time. With my fourth I point blank refused to go to hospital and they agreed it was my decision until they thought I was in labour and then they point blank refused to come out to me, made me argue through contractions for over an hour on the phone, told me to leave my hubby at home he didn’t need to see the birth and it was only when I told them they were forcing me to have an unwanted unassisted birth and I would sue them if anything went wrong that they finally sent someone out to me. It was a nightmare and as soon as he was born they told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be “allowed” another homebirth ever again.

Thank God I found you!

It makes me so sad and angry whenever I hear women who are fine for homebirth being bullied and lied too, in order to get them to go to hospital. I am not surprised some places are cancelling homebirths altogether… Personally I think this will result in more women going for unassisted births at home.

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