The number of women having home births has fallen because of a lack of midwives, official figures show – despite the new NHS guidelines that say women should be encouraged to have their baby at home if they want to
Statistics published by the Office For National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the amount of women giving birth at home has dropped by a fifth in four years.
Just 15,500 women gave birth at home last year – 2.3 per cent of all the births in England and Wales.
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In 2009, over 19,000 women had home births but they were most popular in 2008 when around three per cent of babies were born in their parents’ houses.
Figures show that it’s most common that women have home births in the South West where around 3.2 per cent of babies are born at home – almost three times the amount in the North East.
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Women aged 35 to 39 had the highest percentage of births at home (2.9 per cent) and women aged over 45 had the lowest percentage, with just 0.9 percent of women giving birth at home last year.
Experts believe this decline in home births could be due to a shortage of midwives.
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‘It is becoming hard [for midwives] to offer women the options that they should be offering because the services are under threat or temporarily suspended a lot of the time,’ says Elizabeth Duff, senior policy advisor at the National Childbirth Trust.
‘It ends up with midwives simply saying we should be able to offer a home birth but we cannot guarantee that this will be open at the time you go into labour. It tends to lead to women saying I will opt for the hospital because I don’t want to be messed about at the last minute.’
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