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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

Southampton research on the safety of home births included in national guidelines

Published: 22 May 2014

Significant research by Zoë Matthews, Professor of Global Health and Social Statistics at the University of Southampton, has contributed to new recommendations that women with low-risk pregnancies should be advised to plan to give birth at home or in a midwife-led maternity unit.

The findings of her work with colleagues Professor Ann Berrington and Dr Andrea Nove have been incorporated into new draft guidelines on maternity care from NICE - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The Southampton team looked at more than half a million births in one region of the UK and compared the odds of postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) in planned home birth against planned hospital birth. The study found the risk of PPH was higher in hospitals than at home and recommended more research into the findings.

Concurrent work at the University of Oxford involved the investigation of almost 65,000 births in England and found evidence that home births and births in midwife-led units may be just as safe as hospital births for low-risk pregnancies. Using these and other studies NICE has now concluded that hospital labour wards with doctors should be for more complex and difficult births.

In 2012, around 729,000 babies were born in England and Wales but only two per cent of deliveries were home births.  Earlier research found 20 per cent of women were interested in giving birth at home, and that many decided against home birth because of safety fears. The NICE review provides solid evidence that can help women and their families make decisions, and help health services to provide better care. The guidelines are now out for consultation until the end of June.

'Labour wards not for straightforward births' , BBC news

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance

BMC pregnancy and childbirth

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