What sort of delivery do you want for your baby and where would you like the birth to take place? These questions have been in the news in recent days. First there was the report by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) recommending that women be given more choice over whether to have caesareans.
This has been followed by the findings of The Birthplace study. This compares the safety of births planned at home, in freestanding midwifery units, alongside midwifery units and in obstetric units. The findings relate to women with straightforward pregnancies who are classed as "low risk" when their labour begins. Reassuringly, the study concludes that giving birth in whichever setting is generally safe.
At Liverpool Women’s we pride ourselves on giving women and their families the information to help them make informed choices and support them in those choices. As you can read more fully in our website news section, we already give women a choice of whether or not to have a caesarean for a number of reasons but in fact very few women opt for this unless it is absolutely necessary.
Many also prefer to have their baby in the most natural way. This choice is offered in our Midwife-led unit which is the largest in Europe, designed with relaxing surroundings where women are offered water births and other soothing facilities. Last year approximately 2,400 of our 8000 births took place on the unit. This preference was endorsed by the Birthplace Study which found that giving birth in such a unit is as safe as in an obstetric unit. They also found it leads to significantly fewer interventions and increases the chance of having a natural birth. This supports our own local evidence and will, we hope, encourage more women to consider planning such a birth.
The study found that planning to have your first baby at home does slightly increase the risk of complications for first time mums but the risk is still less than 1%. Although the homebirth rate in Liverpool is lower than the national average (just under 2% last year), those who opt for this receive full support from our community midwives. We also hire out birthing pools for those who want them and the midwife will be quick to act if a transfer to hospital is necessary. We hope that this research will encourage more suitable women to consider home births if that is their choice.
We welcome this research which will support our midwives and doctors in giving women the up to date information needed to help them make choices about how and where they would prefer to give birth, with safety and patient experience always the main considerations.