Consultant care 'is no better than midwifery': Opposition to home births unsuitable for the Nineties, obstetrician says

THREE out of four women do not need to see an obstetrician at any time during their pregnancies and can be adequately cared for from conception to delivery of their babies by midwives and GPs, a leading consultant said yesterday.

Malcolm Pearce, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at St George's Hospital, London, said there were too many doctors who were reluctant to give up their power base in maternity units. Hospitals need to employ only half the present number of consultants, and problem pregnancies should be cared for by a new breed of specialists in foetal medicine, rather than obstetricians, he said.

Speaking at a meeting in London yesterday to highlight the difficulties women face in getting a home birth, Mr Pearce said many consultants were 'entrenched' in the idea of hospital births and medical intervention. His efforts to set up a maternity unit run entirely by midwives near St George's had been blocked by senior colleagues.

'It is all to do with loss of power; being a consultant is about the numbers of beds and numbers of patients. There is no evidence that consultant care is better than midwifery care and it is a damn sight more expensive,' Mr Pearce said.

Offering women more choice about how they gave birth also made good 'business' sense in the NHS internal market, he added, with those hospitals supporting home and midwife deliveries attracting more women than those which did not.

Earlier this year, the Government announced a radical overhaul of maternity services, giving women greater freedom to choose where and how they had their babies. More home births and a central role for midwives will be introduced over the next five years.

The review followed a report by the cross-party Commons Select Committee on Health criticising the 'over- medicalisation' of birth which made it a degrading experience for most women.

Sheila Kitzinger, a pioneer of the home birth movement, said that the proposed changes were welcome, but women faced many obstacles and ignorance among doctors. She said many women who ask about a home birth are told: 'Well, I wouldn't allow my wife to have a home birth. . .'

Donald Gibb, a consultant obstetrician and director of womens' services at King's College Hospital, London, said there was still a strong perception among many members of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that women who wanted home births and midwives who supported them were 'mad, bad or marginal'. He said: 'The Royal College position of being implacably opposed to home birth is unsuitable for the 1990s . . . There are high and low risk women and, having been informed of that, they should be free to choose.'

There was no conflict in wanting the best of both worlds, the benefits of high- tech medicine and procedures such as amniocentesis and scanning, and low-tech birth in the home, he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links