Thursday, October 14, 2010

WA Health Department statement on Home Birth

Home Births

In Australia there are a small number of women who elect to have home births. In WA, approximately 200 women have a homebirth each year representing between 0.65-0.8% of all births.

Some countries have higher rates of planned homebirth. For example around 2% of all births in the UK are homebirths and in the Netherlands this is much higher at around 30%. In these countries the infrastructure for safe home birthing is well established and outcomes are usually positive.

There has been controversy about the safety of births at home with differences in opinions between health professionals and sometimes it may be difficult to obtain a balanced view.

In 2007 WA Health commissioned a review of evidence into Models of Maternity Care. This review discusses the safety of planned home births by women of low obstetric risk.

The review concluded that
"Planned home birth with a qualified home birth practitioner is a safe alternative for women determined to be at low risk of pregnancy complications." view full review-see page 11 (external site) (PDF 1.22MB)

You should be aware that your midwife will advise transfer to hospital if complications arise and that there should be a clear plan in place with your local hospital to allow a smooth transition to hospital care, should it become necessary, at any point during your pregnancy, labour or birth.

Some women opt for homebirth after a prior birth experience within a hospital environment that may have not met their expectations. For a few of these women homebirth is not a safe choice due to pre-existing medical problems or previous pregnancy or birth complications. If this applies to you we encourage you to make an appointment with senior members of midwifery and medical staff at the hospital to discuss your concerns. They will then be able to support you to ensure your next birth experience will be more rewarding.

If you are considering a homebirth make sure you are fully aware of the potential and often unpredictable complications that may arise during labour and birth before you make your choice.

Community Midwifery Program WA (external site) provides continuity of midwifery care for low-risk women who are planning to birth at home.
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Homebirth statement (external site) (PDF 520KB)
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Homebirth statement (external site) (PDF 84KB)
Report: Review of home births in Western Australia (August 2008) (external site) (PDF 445KB)