When it is time to give birth, it can feel like things become out of your control. Sure, you may have a birth plan written out or envisioned the perfect birth, but nature and those tending to you have a lot of influence over what actually happens.
Whether it is a home birth attended by a skilled midwife or a hospital birth, once contractions begin your body (and baby) are in control. Unfortunately, doctor attended births often do not allow this natural process to unfold using costly and potentially harmful interventions that are often not necessary.
In the UK, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is recommending the NHS look carefully at births advocating for the safety of home births in one-third of all pregnancies.
The Daily Mail explains:
In a watershed moment, leading medical experts declared that mothers should be given more opportunity to have babies at home because a maternity ward is not necessarily the ‘safer option’.
A report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests that as many as a third of all women should give birth ‘without a doctor going anywhere near them’.
In fact, the report goes on to say that the current NHS system full of small maternity wards has caused a situation where “top-level” doctors are not available, and there is a shortage of midwives.
Anthony Falconer, president of the RCOG, said: ‘Too many babies are born in the traditional “hospital” setting’.
He added: ‘There is a perception among patients that they still see the hospital birth as the safer option. The use of some of these midwife-led units is not as great as it should be. These places are very safe and appropriate to have babies.’
Dr Falconer said: ‘Roughly a third of women need a doctor, roughly a third need midwives and roughly a third might need both.’
The RCOG has supported home birth in the past. A 2007 joint statement with the Royal College of Midwives states:
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) support home birth for women with uncomplicated pregnancies. There is no reason why home birth should not be offered to women at low risk of complications and it may confer considerable benefits for them and their families. There is ample evidence showing that labouring at home increases a woman’s likelihood of a birth that is both satisfying and safe, with implications for her health and that of her baby.1-3
1.1 The rate of home births within the UK remains low at approximately 2%,4-6 but it is believed that if women had true choice the rate would be around 8-10%.7
1.2 The development of maternity polices over the last four decades, combined with frequent reorganisations of service structure, have impacted on the availability of home birth and have concentrated on births in hospitals.8-10 Reasons for this appear to include:
- financial constraints
- the values and beliefs of organisations about maternity care
- lack of staff with the appropriate competencies.11
Now the organization is working to change those beliefs and values. The RCOG is also trying to move overall women’s health care from an intervention to a prevention model.
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