Women 'better off giving birth out of hospital'

Thousands more babies could be born at home under the new guidelines. Credit: PA Wire

Women with low-risk pregnancies are now better off giving birth at home or in midwife-led centres than in hospital, new NHS guidelines say.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said more women should be encouraged to give birth out of hospitals, as the outcome for the baby is no different to being born in a traditional labour ward - except for first-time mothers.

In a midwifery unit or a hospital, a baby born with a serious medical complication might occur in 5 out of every 1,000 births, but this rises to 9 in every 1,000 for home births for first-time mothers, Nice said.

It suggested that doctors were too willing to stage interventions in traditional hospital wards through caesareans.

The 45% of women who have a low-risk of developing complications during their pregnancy may be better off giving birth elsewhere and should be given more options by medical professionals.

Factors that increase the risk of complications during birth include:

  • Being over 35

  • Obesity

  • High blood pressure

  • History of complications in pregnancy

Professor Mark Baker, Nice's clinical practice director, said midwifery-led care is "value for money" and helped put mothers in control and deliver healthy babies.

Susan Bewley, professor of Complex Obstetrics at King's College London, who helped develop the recommendations, said: "Some women may prefer to have their baby at home or in a midwife-led unit because they are generally safer - that is their right and they should be supported in that choice."

But Ms Bewley said there was no "one size fits all model" that suited everyone, insisting women still had every right to give birth in a hospital if they felt safer.