The deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives has expressed her disappointment at new ONS data which showed a drop in the home birth rate for the third year in a row.

Only 2.5 per cent of women gave birth at home last year, compared to a peak of 33.2 per cent in 1960 and 2.7 per cent in 2009 and Louise Silverton of the RCM said: "This continues a disappointing trend and one that we want to see reversed.

"I have no doubt that this fall is related to cost-cutting within the NHS which sees resources pulled out of the community and into the hospitals, all of which is going against this government's commitment to bring services closer to home. Most women could have a home birth and we need to see maternity services recognising this and putting resources into making it happen."

The announcement followed a speech by Dr Mary Stewart on the "Importance of Place of Birth" at the annual RCM Conference in Brighton in which she stressed the need to give women every opportunity to have full freedom of choice on where they give birth.

Referencing the current continued drop in home births and the worrying return of crop infection in the UK, she said that "choice [over place] is key to a successful birth" but warned "there are big gaps between hospitals in the level of experience and training offered to midwives on home birthing."

She said that a succession of negative headlines focusing on the risks of home births combined with traditional attitudes to birth, often from partners, had led to the decline but hoped that the NPEU's Birthplace study will change people's views.

"Birthplace will provide better evidence and key information for mums," she claimed of the long-awaited study results which will be published on Friday [25 Nov].


A full copy of the ONS Characteristics of Birth survey is available here

Posted on November 21 2011 at 1745 by