Dear Mothers-to-be

A survey on home births by the National Childbirth Trust has revealed w orrying trends. A spokeswoman for the NCT reflects on the things GPs tell mothe rs-to-be
Let me tell you a story about pregnancy, childbirth and choices for women in these modern times. When I say "story", I don't mean that what follows is fiction; sadly, it's the real-life, everyday story of mothers across the country who wanted a h ome birth. When they went along to their doctors to exercise choice, as is their right under the Government's Maternity Services Charter, it seems support was very much a lottery and depended on their doctors' willingness to tolerate their wishes.

"What about the rights of your unborn child?" one doctor quoted in the survey demanded, adding, "The last woman who had a baby at home bled to death and that's what will probably happen to you."

Obviously, this GP is not aware of the most recent research by the National Perinatal Epidemiological Unit, which states: "There is no evidence to support the claim that the safest policy is for all women to give birth in hospital."

And let us hope you are fortunate enough not to meet the GP who unhesitatingly told a mother-to-be that if she persisted with a home birth, he would call in the police and have her other children removed.

Many doctors remove mothers-to-be from their lists rather than meet their wishes: "My GP struck myself, my husband and my four-year-old daughter off his list because I was considering a home birth, and I wasn't informed until my antenatal appointments

failed to arrive." On the other hand, you may be one of the all too few lucky ones. A doctor from Gloucester, for example, whose patient is quoted in the survey, was "a bit hesitant at first as he had never done a home delivery and he seemed quite nervous, but on the day he was great".

Here are some facts. If you want a home birth, you do not need your GP's "permission". A community midwife can provide all your care, referring to a hospital doctor if necessary at any time during pregnancy or labour (many community midwives work closelywith local GPs).

Be armed with information. Point out that on page 23 of Changing Childbirth, the report of the Expert Maternity Group chaired by Baroness Cumberlege and published in 1993, it says categorically, "Professionals cannot quantify the enriching experience which some women feel when they have their baby in the place of their choice. The job of midwives and doctors must be to provide women with as much accurate and objective ... information as possible, while avoiding personal bias or preference."

You can also explain that the Expert Maternity Group finds that asking women and their families to transfer to another GP's list to have a home birth "is an unacceptable practice which must cease".

And remember, dear mother-to-be, that the recommendations in Changing Childbirth are now Government policy.

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