New research from the University of Oxford supports the policy of all women having access to a birth centre run by midwives – either alongside a hospital unit or on a separate site in the community. Giving birth at home or in a midwifery unit is cost-effective as well as being safe for the baby and improving outcomes for the mother.
Birth centres, or midwifery units, are a midwife-led model of care. They provide social and emotional support for women and families, and clinical care during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period, helping more women to have a normal birth and get breastfeeding off to a good start.
Mary Newburn, Head of Research and Information at NCT, the UK’s largest charity for parents, said:
“This research shows that midwifery units are cost effective for the NHS as well as offering benefits to mothers and babies. There can be important benefits for the whole family when a baby is born in a social rather than a medical environment. Yet, only half of all NHS trusts in England have a birth centre facility for local families to use.
“We are shocked that despite their importance for families and for the NHS, several birth centres have recently been closed. It is short-sighted, even in times of economic constraints, to close midwifery-led birth centres.
This research which demonstrates the financial benefit to the health service when mothers give birth outside of hospital must be considered when NHS Trusts are developing their maternity services. We expect all NHS trusts to offer access to a reliable home birth service and to a midwife-led birth centre.”