Demand for homebirth increases by 30%

Demand for homebirth increases by 30%

Media Release

26 October 2011

Homebirth Awareness Week will be celebrated around Australia this week by thousands of women, midwives and their families. The common theme will be the serious concerns that many have for the future of safe homebirth in Australia.

While latest figures show homebirth increased by 14.9% from 2007-2008 in Australia, there are fears that homebirth will become unavailable to the majority of women due to the restrictive policies being put into place and lack of access to midwives. Many women leave the hospital system traumatised from their first birth experience and this is reflected in the rise in home births in the latest national data. Yet Federal Government reforms to the maternity care system in 2009, has meant many of those women are no longer able to access midwives, but many will still choose to birth at home.

“In the last two years, the impacts of the maternity reforms has lead to a deterioration in options for women, greater risk for women and babies and a move from quality primary care to expensive secondary care,” Homebirth Australia spokesperson Michelle Meares said.

Overly restrictive legislation has meant that the number of private midwives attending births in Australia has dropped from 200 midwives in 2009 to only 90 midwives in 2011. Some women are having to birth at home unattended, some are being forced into hospital births they do not want. Regional and rural areas have been significantly impacted.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said two years ago that it ‘would not be a good outcome’ if homebirth was driven underground due to the reforms being implemented by the Government and that Australian Health Minsters’ would ensure that women can make an informed choice to have a midwife attended homebirth.

At the Australian Health Minsters’ Conference in September 2009, Minister Roxon stated ‘I have made clear that I was concerned that as an unintended consequence of the national registration and accreditation process, that home birthing might be driven underground, that that would not be a good outcome.’ and ‘We have however ensured that women can make the choice if they’re properly informed to still have a midwife attend to a home birth.’

“Now it is 2011, and the number of private midwives nationwide has dropped by 65% and new regulations may now prevent those left from attending many births such as women who have previously had a caesarean. Australian women who make the safe legitimate choice to birth at home are asking – will I have to hide to give birth?” said Ms Meares.

Homebirth Australia calls on the Federal Government and all Australian Health Ministers to ensure that Australian women can continue to access the care of a midwife at home and will not be abandoned by their Government for their choice of maternity care.

Homebirth Statistics Source: Australia’s Mothers & Babies Report 2008 available from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare online here – http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442472399

Press Conference – Health Minister’s meeting, health and hospital reform, homebirths, swine flu, IVF –http://www.health.gov.au/internet/ministers/publishing.nsf/Content/tr-yr09-nr-nrsp040909.htm