Homebirth is not for everyone but shouldn’t women be allowed to choose?

Homebirth is not for everyone but shouldn’t women be allowed to choose?

homebirthHomebirth has had a lot of media coverage recently in light of government health care reform.

Unfortunately, while some hospital changes regarding an increased responsibility for midwives at hospital births are indeed positive, it appears that families who opt to have there babies at home are being overlooked.

Why would this be? Well, this seems to be the golden question…

If the government suggests ‘safety’ is an issue then this argument makes no sense as homebirths (across the globe) comparative to hospital births have an exemplary “safety” record.  Confusion may arise when “free-birth” (NO MIDWIFE PRESENT) is mistaken for a “homebirth”, births supported by highly skilled and qualified independent midwives.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) support home birth for women with uncomplicated pregnancies. “There is no reason why home birth should not be offered to women at low risk of complications and it may confer considerable benefits for them and their families. There is ample evidence showing that labouring at home increases a woman’s likelihood of a birth that is both satisfying and safe, with implications for her health and that of her baby.”

That is the summary of the Joint Statement on Home Births (Amended) from the Royal Colleges of the two professions which are the experts on birth in the UK.

Having had a broad mix of birthing environments (1 birth centre, 1 hospital and 3 homebirths) I am very PRO- CHOICE regarding birthing options for families. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to birth some of our children at home, an environment that was calm and loving. Home birth is not for everybody, but every Australian, indeed every mother, should have the right to choose a birthing environment that best serves their desires and needs.

There have been several large-scale studies of planned homebirth in the UK and Western Europe in the last twenty years, and it has overwhelmingly concluded that planned home birth is a sufficiently safe option for women with normal pregnancies.

It is vitally important that we respect the rights of all women. I urge you all to please sign the petition on the www.homebirthaustralia.org website and let our politicians know that parents deserve a right to choose.

Keeping you up-to-date – these extracts are taken from www.homebirthaustralia.org

Homebirth – Soon to be illegal?

Since 2001 midwives have been unable to purchase an indemnity insurance policy. This was due to global factors with the collapse of the insurance market after September 11 and a landmark obstetric birth injury case awarding a payout of $11 million in 2002.

Guild insurance was providing indemnity at the time and they made a straightforward economic decision.

With just under 200 privately practicing midwives paying approximately $800 per annum, there was simply not a large enough pool to fund a payout of the magnitude mentioned above.

Medical Practitioners indemnity premiums were subsidised by the Howard Government and continue to be so with over $900 million of tax-payers money having been spent to date. Homebirth midwives continue to be denied professional parity.  Women choosing homebirth are treated as de-facto health consumers and are the only health consumers denied the protection of practitioner insurance.  If as planned and homebirth midwives are unable to practice, women seeking homebirth care will be unable to access a registered midwife.

The Council of Australian Governments  (COAG) has prepared draft legislation to establish a National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for all Health Professionals by July 2010.   This body will require evidence of medical or professional indemnity insurance to secure registration. This presents a very serious threat to women who want to access homebirth with a midwife. To date the Government has made it clear that they do not intend to provide indemnity insurance to private practice homebirth midwives. As a result these midwives will be unable to register, hence making it illegal for them to attend homebirths. Homebirth Australia sees this as a breach of basic human rights and possibly a contravention of Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Health Minister Denies Women their basic rights

Wednesday June 24 2009

Homebirth Australia today slammed the exclusion of homebirth from insurance schemes for midwives announced by the Health Minister Nicola Roxon in parliament today.

“Effectively two pieces of legislation will outlaw midwives providing homebirth care from July 2010” said Justine Caines, mother of seven and secretary of Homebirth Australia.

“Women will continue to homebirth, but will now be forced to do so without the assistance of a qualified professional” said Ms Caines.

“It is unacceptable and unsafe to force a woman into a choice that is not optimal for her, whether that is a hospital birth or a birth at home without midwifery support. It is absolutely impossible to understand the government’s position on this, other than to say that they have bowed to political pressure from medical lobby groups.”

The National Maternity Service Review received submissions from hundreds of women wanting access to homebirth services.  The vast majority of homebirth services are provided by private practice midwives.  Removing this option is likely to end access for most women to homebirth.

Ms Caines called on all ALP members to declare their view on a woman’s right to self determination of her health care needs.  “If the ALP is so hell bent on preventing women from accessing homebirth as an option I ask all ALP members to publicly state their position on this.

It appears that having a Health Minister who is a woman, a recent mother, and a lawyer understanding consumers’ rights, is not proving to be an advantage for women. Removing women’s rights to the point where we are back providing care in dark alleys or in back rooms is ridiculous in 2009.”

HOME-BIRTH advocates have slammed media reports suggesting the practice is inherently dangerous.

The reports were prompted following the death of a baby during a home water birth.

The baby was the third child of Janet Fraser, the national convener of home birth support group, Joyous   suggested there was no midwife present.

Dr Andrew Pesce, from Westmead Hospital, was quoted as saying he was aware of at least four deaths and four possible cases of brain damage that occurred during home births since last July.

Advocate Sonia Gregson from Helensburgh said the overwhelming majority of home births occurred with the assistance of a midwife.

“Free births [non-midwife assisted] represent a tiny percentage of home births,” she said.
“And who is to say the babies would have been saved in a hospital?”Mrs Gregson said home-birth advocates were not looking to exclude the medical profession and authorities.

“We want the medicos and hospitals involved. We want government support to make home birth as safe as possible,” she said.

“It’s about people making educated birth choices.”

Recent media reports suggested the problem was that people had lost faith in the public health system and had turned to home births as an alternative.


The lack of continuity of care was identified by the Australian College of Midwives as one problem. College president, Professor Pat Brodie, said many women approached labour with fear.


Michael Chapman, director of women’s and babies’ health at St George and Sutherland hospitals, said St George Hospital had run a successful home birth service for two years that had resulted in 65 births.

Professor Chapman said while this still represented a small proportion of the 5000 births connected with the hospital each year, the St George homebirth service offered “the highest possibility of a great outcome”.He said the homebirth service had strict selection criteria, only allowing low-risk births, with the hospital as a backup in case of difficulties.



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