Slow uptake for home births in Lincoln

Just 2.6% of pregnant women are having home births in the city, despite Lincoln County Hospital’s reassurance that they are just as safe as hospital births. Between January and December 2009, there were 3,708 births in Lincoln. Of those, only 96 were home births.

The figures come after speculation from a report in the medical journal Lancet, stating that home births are more dangerous than hospital births.

Anna Temple, spokesperson for the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, said the risks were similar to a regular hospital birth: “All of our qualified midwives are able to deliver a baby in any setting so they are all trained to supervise home births.

“When a woman chooses to have a home birth, all risks will be reviewed and advice given to have the baby in hospital if the pregnancy is high risk, like severe raised blood pressure, twins and breech. Although the choice always remains with the woman,” Temple explained.

Being too cautious?

Kelly Wythe (21) has had both a home birth and hospital birth, and is currently studying midwifery. She feels that expecting mothers have a sound alternative with home births.

“My first child was a hospital birth. They didn’t know about my birth plan, and just wanted me to stay in bed and not move. It was more painful and not very relaxed. It was also much longer because it felt rushed. I know it’s not always like that though.

“But it depends on the person. I really like home births but other people wouldn’t dare. I didn’t have to travel to the hospital, and I was allowed to do what I wanted in my home. I can go to my own bed afterwards too. During I could be more relaxed and it was quicker and less painful, possibly because I was more relaxed.

“The good thing with home births is there are two midwives there all the time; one comes to make sure you are in labour and then calls for the next one. Then they are there all the time, they don’t leave your side. They follow your birth plan and let you wander about and have birth how you want. They also let me cut the cord myself.”

Kelly Wythe on her own sofa, after her the home birth of her son.

“At the home birth the midwife comes, tells you the head’s coming out and then cut the cord and weigh the baby. They even bring scissors in case they have to cut you, and equipment for stitches. So they can do it all at home. They just don’t have forceps and can only give gas and air.”

“They assess everything too. They have to make sure the house has central heating in case it gets cold, blankets and towels, access to water and check the house isn’t dirty. Even if you have a medical condition which would affect the home birth they can’t stop you — they can only strongly advise you against it. If something does go wrong there is an ambulance to take you to hospital.

“There is no need for me to go to hospital anyway because I have good births. You only really need to go into hospital is in case they have to intervene — otherwise it’s the same.”

The controversial report claimed that home births were only safe for a quarter of women giving birth, as it is more “suitable” for a woman who is not diabetic or antenatal high blood pressure, has already had a “model” first child and has not needed to have any children with forceps.

‘Trust your body, not the environment around you’

“The [Lancet] report is ridiculous. Home births are not dangerous! Giving birth is a normal thing, not a medical problem, and people used to give birth at home anyway,” Wythe opined.

“You hear of people giving birth all over the place, like shops and aeroplanes. Trust your body, not the environment around you. I think doctors and midwives are just being careful.”

Cathy Warwick, who leads Britain’s thousands of midwives, told the Guardian in an interview: “There is a danger that risk during childbirth is presented in a way which is leading women to believe that hospital birth equals a safe birth.

“It does not. There is no hard and fast guarantee that a woman will have a safer birth in a hospital than at home,” Warwick explained.

Photo: Allan Paquette