Back in May I blogged about about draft recommendations regarding childbirth from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). The report has been finalised, and low-risk first-time mothers will now be told that birth in a midwife-led unit is “particularly suitable” for them, and mothers who already have children will be told that choosing either midwife care or a home birth would be equally suitable.
The Institute’s new guidance says that it is safer for healthy women to give birth in a midwife-led unit or at home than in hospital, as they will be less likely to undergo potentially risky surgical interventions such as delivery by forceps, caesarean section or episiotomy.
Local health authorities will now have to ensure that all women have the choice to give birth in hospital, a midwife unit, or their own homes – meaning that thousands more babies could be born outside hospitals (Of the 700,000 babies born in England and Wales last year, 90 per cent were delivered in hospital).
Midwife-led units, or ‘birth centres’, are run by midwives without the medical facilities of a hospital (for example, epidurals are not available). They were established in the 1990s and can be either next to a main hospital maternity unit or separate.