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Home birth rate in UK falls

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Slightly fewer women are opting to give birth at home, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported.

In 2008, 2.9% of pregnant women in England and Wales had babies in their home. Last year, the rate fell to 2.7%.

In 1959, the proportion was 34%.

The lowest rate recorded was 0.9% between 1985 and 1988, but the ONS said the proportion of home births had generally been rising since 1988.

The issue of home births has been the subject of recent controversy because of a US study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in July.

The research suggested that out of 500,000 births around the world, the death rate for home births (0.2%) was twice as high as those carried out in hospitals.

However, previous studies have found no excess danger for women or babies when a pregnancy is at low risk of complications.

Women are encouraged to choose where they want to give birth, such as in hospital, at home or in a midwifery-led birthing centre.

Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Even though it is a small one, the drop in the home birth rate is a real disappointment, particularly because the UK already has a very low rate compared with many other countries.

“These figures suggest to me that we are not providing the choice that women want and deserve, and that commissioners are not doing enough to offer them that choice.”


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