Released on: 24 November 2011

The results of the Birthplace in England study by Oxford University’s National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) were published on 25 November.

The Birthplace study was carried out at Oxford University and led by co-investigators from Oxford, UCL (University College London), King’s College London, City University London, NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, and the Royal College of Midwives.

Mary Newburn, Head of Research and Information at NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said:

“NCT supports women and their partners to make decisions that feel right for them about where to plan to have their baby. They need reliable, up-to-date information that addresses their questions and concerns, in order to make informed decisions. The Birthplace study adds significantly to what we know about options for birth.

“Different settings appeal to different people, and if a woman feels comfortable and secure in the environment she and her partner have chosen, she is likely to feel more in control during birth. For women who are healthy and have a straightforward pregnancy, the options to give birth at a midwifery unit or at home have much to recommend them. Generally, the results of this study will be reassuring to couples making these decisions.

“For low risk women in first and subsequent pregnancies, care in a midwifery unit is safe for them and their babies, and leads to more straightforward births without medical interventions such as an emergency caesarean. For those who have had a baby before there was no difference in poor outcomes between all of the different birth settings. For first-time mothers planning a home birth there was a small increase in poor outcomes, but a greater chance of giving birth without interventions. Parents should have this explained to them by midwives and other health professionals, so they can then make up their minds where they would like to plan to have their baby.

“NCT believes all pregnant women should have access to the full range of birth options: a home birth service sufficient to meet demand, a birth centre – either freestanding or alongside an obstetric labour ward – and the option of birth in hospital. The new evidence provided by Birthplace would support more birth centres being opened, creating positive choices for many more women.”

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