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
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders