Women seek warmth and intimacy of home birth

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The Independent Online
ONE IN 50 women chooses to give birth at home and most are pleased they did so.

Childbirth is an intense emotional and physical experience and women appreciate the greater intimacy and warmth that home birth can bring. Demand for home births is growing and is expected to double by 2005. Women are entitled to a home birth if they so choose and professionals are obliged to make the necessary arrangements for them.

Women having a first baby are often discouraged from choosing a home birth because of the greater risk.

A study of the 6,000 home births that took place in 1994 found 15 per cent of women had to be transferred to hospital during labour because of complications but this rose to 40 per cent among first-time mothers.

However, the same study, by Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain of the University of London and colleagues, found there was much greater satisfaction among the women booked for home delivery and no higher risk, to mother or baby, than those booked for hospital delivery, provided they were properly selected.

Sheila Kitzinger, a childbirth campaigner, said that Ann Kelly, who favours home births even for first-time mothers, offered an intimate personal service with continuity of care, which was something women wanted and hospitals were reluctant or unable to provide.

"She is humble, genuine and caring and she really listens to what her patients want in a way that is very difficult for hospital midwives, who are bound by rules, to do.

"Women are seeking an intimacy in their care and once they have experienced it they really value it. If they haven't had it they don't know what they are missing."