Number of births at home on rise

Experienced midwives are ensuring the percentage of home births in Northampton is about double the national average, a matron has said.

The latest figures show that in England and Wales in 2006 three per cent of all maternities were home births, which the Government wants to increase.

But Northampton General Hospital said that in Northampton about six per cent of births take place in the mother's own home – more than halfway towards the target of 10 per cent by 2010.

Faith Oduegwu, a matron lead midwife, said she was proud of the figures and said they were down to experienced midwives passing on their knowledge.

She said: "One of the main issues is experience in that the more you do home births the more you get used to them. The midwives are therefore able to share their experience and support newer maternity staff."

Home births are often much quicker because giving birth on an unfamiliar hospital ward can be more stressful for many women.

NGH maternity staff are told to make a point of offering the choice of a home birth and encouraging the mother to keep an open mind throughout the pregnancy.

About 40 years ago the national home birth rate was 10 times higher than today but Mrs Oduegwu said a steady "medicalisation" of pregnancy had reduced the figure.

She said: "I'm very proud of where we are with home births at the moment but there's a long way to go.

"In the 1960s about 25 per cent of births were at home and we need to get it back to where it was then."

The ONS journal Population Trends* reports that 18,100 maternities in England and Wales took place at home during 2006, out of a total of 662,915.