Across the UK in 2008, 21, 211 (2.7%) of all births (787,032) took place at home, compared with 20,548 (2.68%) in 2007. This shows no rise in the home birth rate.
In England 18,933 women (2.8%) had a home birth, from 665,779 births.
Wales has the highest proportion of women having home births, 1,314 (3.7%) from 35,256 births.
In Scotland, 881 women (1.5%) had a home birth, from 60,366 births. And in Northern Ireland, 83 women (0.3%) had home births from 25,631 births.
Mary Newburn, Head of Research & Information, NCT (National Childbirth Trust), says;
“The NCT is very disappointed to see a lack of movement in the number of women giving birth at home, stalling the upward trend. It’s a blow for mothers-to-be. The Government’s Maternity Matters guarantee to allow every woman in England the choice of a home birth, birth centre birth or hospital birth by the end of 2009 is still far from being met. And choice throughout the rest of the UK is faring no better. In order to live up to the policy commitments, much more must be done.
Research for the NCT’s Location, location, location campaign found that women’s access to a home birth service varied greatly between different areas, and the vast majority of women did not have reasonable access to a home birth around the UK.
In many areas community midwifery services are not being developed to increase access to home births and birth centres, and women are not being given balanced information to make well-informed choices. Low midwifery staffing levels mean home birth is either not being offered, or withdrawn at short notice. Every trust and board should ensure that choice of place of birth is available to all women.
We call on Governments across the UK to deliver on policy commitments for choice. It is vital there are enough midwives, and that they are able to do what they do best – support women.
We encourage anyone concerned about the lack of choice in their area to visit the NCT campaign webpage www.nct.org.uk/choice. By taking action, we can demand that the choice guarantee is met, even if this achievement is later than promised.”
NCT members have contacted us to share their experiences of home birth. Please see below for some case studies.
Rosie Evans, Rugby
“After giving birth to a stillborn girl, followed by a miscarriage, we were very anxious for the birthing experience to be special. We chose to have a home birth because I knew that in a hospital environment I would not feel able to birth, because for birth you need relaxation and for relaxation I need privacy and control.
The home birth was very positive. Everyone who meets our daughter comments how calm and contented she is. I have no doubt that this, my effective contractions and short labour were all down to the fact that she was born in water and at home.”
Helen O’Donnel, Worcester
Helen gave birth in a water bath at home with her mother, husband and two community midwives present. It was a very positive experience.
Charlene Lucas, Twickenham
“I chose to have a home birth and informed my midwife (at the GP surgery) at 20 weeks. She was supportive, but said she could not guarantee me a home birth. Someone would bring round my home birth kit at 37 weeks, but I would only find out whether someone could attend my birth at home when I went into labour, otherwise I would need to go into hospital.
As it turned out, I was recommended to go into hospital as the baby was breech and the birth went well. However, it was not my first choice and had I been able to proceed with the home birth I would not have known where I would labour until the day it happened and had no idea who will be attending which is far from ideal!”
Suzanne Borrell, Brighton and Hove
“I attempted a home birth in August 2005 but ended up in an emergency c section situation. Midwives were very positive but on the day the midwife who was attending me left at 11pm after a brief visit 'saying - I'm off home to get some sleep and I suggest you do the same'. Although it was early on in my labour I was in a lot of pain as my baby was posterior. I really could have used her support as well gas and air as the pain became almost unbearable as the hours passed.
I had a birthing pool but was nervous about using it without a midwife present. Next morning a lovely midwife then came with gas and air but I was by then exhausted by the pain. I was taken by ambulance at 5pm to Royal Sussex as labour was not progressing and had a c section at 11pm.
After having a very positive second birth in a birthing pool, I now know that the outcome would have been different if I had received more care earlier on as much of the pain came through stress and fear.”