Your health:

So what's wrong with home births?

Laura Johnson
Would giving birth at home be important to you? Several campaign groups say it should be - but if the statistics are to be believed not many women are bothered by the idea.

In England just one in 40 births take place in the home. It's been controversial. Many medics regard it as unsafe - in case something should go wrong. Yet there have been strong campaigns in support of women having this choice - and it's got to be more pleasant than the atmosphere in hospital.

According to the latest figures, rates of home births have fallen in England and Wales.

Campaigners reacted in dismay to the figures. Midwives blamed the NHS efficiency drive which has led to the closure of several birth centres.

Last year just 2.5 per cent of pregnant women gave birth at home in England - compared with 2.7 per cent the previous year. This represented some 16,919 births.

In Wales some 3.5 per cent of births are at home compared with 1.4 per cent in Scotland, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Elizabeth Duff, of the National Childbirth Trust, said the figures were "disappointing" - following several years of increasing rates.

She said: "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."

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, blamed NHS cost-cutting for the reduction.

She said: "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."

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