Australia Deals Blow Against Home Births

April 21, 2009 07:20 AM
by Emily Coakley
As Australia plans to prohibit midwives from attending home births, studies and reports of deaths spur the debate over their safety.

Home Birth Debate Continues in Australia

In Australia, some pregnant women and midwives have fought for the ability to give birth at home. New regulations that will take effect over the summer will prohibit the practice, reports the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Midwives will be not be able to attend home births without indemnity insurance—and medical insurers do not cover them,” the newspaper reported.

Home birth advocates say some women will just give birth at home anyway, without any medical presence, known as “freebirthing.”

“Either midwives will have to attend illegally, or women will start freebirthing and we know that is not a good option,” chair of Childbirth Australia Leslie Arnott said to the newspaper.

Arguments for and against home births have been bolstered recently. Supporting the practice, a study published this month suggested that home births are a safe option for some women.

“We found that for low-risk mothers at the start of their labour it is just as safe to deliver at home with a midwife as it is in hospital with a midwife,” said Simone Buitendijk of the TNO Institute for Applied Scientific Research in an interview with BBC News.
The Dutch study looked at more than 500,000 births, but didn’t examine hospital births with a doctor. In the Netherlands, approximately a third of women give birth at home.

On the other side, a report emerged this month that four babies had died during home births in Sydney during the last nine months, Australia’s Daily Telegraph reported. One of the children who died belonged to the head of a group called Joyous Birth, which advocates home births.

In Australia, a lack of obstetric services and overcrowding are making home births a more popular option for some women.

An editorial in the Daily Telegraph described maternity wards as “factories where women were left alone in labour as midwives ran between birthing suites.”

In the United States, the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have come out against home births, leading some to worry that legislation banning them could be proposed there.

Related Topic: Midwives gaining new authority in Pennsylvania, Canada

This month, a new law in Pennsylvania took effect that allows certified nurse-midwives to prescribe medicine. Pennsylvania is actually the last state to allow certified nurse midwives that ability, according to The Associated Press. 

In Canada, British Columbian authorities have enacted new regulations that allow midwives who receive additional training to prescribe medication, help doctors with Caesarean-sections and administer acupuncture to relieve labor pain, the Canadian Broadcast Corp. reported recently.

The new rules also expanded powers for nurses and naturopaths, and came as a result of the government talking to citizens about what they wanted from the health care system.

This month in Alberta the government agreed to use public money to pay for midwife services. Pregnant women that wanted care from midwives had to pay approximately $3,500 out of pocket, according to the Calgary Herald.

Reference: Midwives


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