A landmark study of nearly 65,000 "low risk" births evaluating the safety and cost of where mothers give birth found that women who planned birth in midwife-led units experienced fewer interventions and no increased risk.

"Birthplace in England" has been a long-awaited study but overall it showed that there is little difference in outcome between possible places of birth including home births, midwifery units and obstetric units.

Commenting on the results, Royal College of Midwives chief executive Cathy Warwick said: "This ground-breaking research makes a very important contribution to the evidence base for women and health professionals about the safety of childbirth.

"This study demonstrates clearly the safety of midwife led-care. For women who do not have complications associated with their pregnancy planning to give birth at home or in a midwife-led unit, whether it is close to a hospital or not, is as safe as planning to give birth in a consultant-led unit."

While poor outcomings are rare in both home births and obstetric units, first time mothers planning a birth at home had an increase in poor outcomes though this was not true for subsequent births.

According to Warwick the results vindicates the RCM's policy of offering a full choice and said that it cast doubts about why the government are shutting free-standing midwife-led units despite their desire to reduce NHS spending.

"There needs to be a seismic shift in the way maternity services are provided now because the way services are currently delivered wastes taxpayers' money," she added.

"For appropriately selected women, births in midwife-led units and home births have been shown to deliver better care for fewer costs. The Government has called for the NHS to deliver more for less and this is exactly what an increase in homebirths and  midwife-led services will safely deliver."



"Birthplace" is available in full at www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/birthplace 

Watch JFHC's exclusive interview with RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick
Posted 25/11/2011 at 1630 by richard.hook@pavpub.com