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First home birth 'risky'

25th November 2011

An Oxford University study has found mothers who give birth to their first babies at home run a higher risk of complications than those who give birth in hospital.

pregnancy

The research, which was published in the British Medical Journal, looked at nearly 65,000 births in England.

The risk of complications was low, at under 1%, and the risk for a second birth was the same at home as in a midwife-led unit or a doctor-led hospital unit.

The Birthplace study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, is the largest of its kind.

All the women in the study had healthy pregnancies and the study found the safety of labour was generally very high.

The rates of complications, including stillbirth or other issues, was 5.3 per 1,000 births in hospital in comparison to 9.3 per 1,000 home births. 

Prof Peter Brocklehurst, who headed the study, said the research showed there was a difference in the risks which applied to a woman giving birth to her first child and any births which followed.

He said: "The risk of an adverse outcome for a baby are higher for a woman planning her first baby at home than in all of the other settings, but there was no difference between the midwife and hospital obstetric units." 

Around nine in 10 women give birth to their babies in a doctor-led obstetric unit and many women are not able to choose where they give birth because of limited facilities in their local area.

Mary Newburn, from the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said the research should be used to kickstart a growth in midwife-led care.

"It's so disappointing that, at the moment, in 50% of NHS trusts there are no midwife-led units. And only 3% of births are home births. We think those figures show women don't really have access to out-of-hospital options."

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