A home birth is better for the mother, and just as safe as hospital, new UK guidelines say. Around 90 per cent of births are in hospital with a doctor present, but nearly half of these could safely happen at home.
The UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states in its new guidelines that home births and midwife-led centres are better for mothers, and usually as safe as the hospital for the baby.
Expectant mothers should be offered the choice of home birth, an obstetric unit in hospital or a midwifery unit, either in the hospital or in the community.
There were fewer medical interventions in home births than hospital births, even among women having their first baby. It could be because women are more comfortable and relaxed in their own home, although it could also be because doctors are keen to use medical interventions, such as a Caesarean section or the use of instruments such as forceps.
The choices should be made to women at low risk of complications. The risk increases if the woman is over the age of 35, or is obese, has high blood pressure, or is anaemic.
NICE sets the guidelines for heathcare in England and Wales, although its directions are often adopted in Scotland and Northern Ireland.