A study has revealed that women with uncomplicated pregnancies should be able to choose where they want to give birth, but the risks may be slightly higher for first-time mothers if they give birth at home.
The study, led by researchers at Oxford University, looked at almost 65,000 births in England, taking place either at home, a mid-wife led unit or a doctor-led hospital unit. All the women followed had healthy pregnancies and began labour with no known risk factors.
The results of the Birthplace study, published in the British Medical Journal, showed that overall birth is very safe wherever it happens, with only a 1% chance of harm to the baby. However, the rate of complications was slightly higher for first time mums having home births, at 9.3 per 1000 compared to 5.3 per 1000 births in hospital.
About 45% of women planning to have their first baby at home were transferred during labour, although this was mainly because of delays in giving birth and the need for an epidural pain-relief injection, rather than because the baby was in distress.
Interestingly, the rate of complications for a stand-alone midwife unit and hospital midwife unit were almost the same, at 4.5 per 1000 births and 4.7 per 1000 births respectively.
There was no difference in risk when women were having their second baby, whether that was at home, in a midwife unit or a traditional hospital setting.
Professor Peter Brocklehurst from Oxford University, who led the research, 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."
“Birth isn’t an abnormal process, it’s a physiological process,” he said. “And if your pregnancy and labour is not complicated, then you don’t need a high level of specific expertise.”
Since birth is not considered a medical condition, private medical insurance will not cover healthy pregnancies. However, some policies may cover complications during pregnancy or birth. For more information look at our medical condition FAQ page, or compare health insurance policies online now.
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