Home-Birth Boost for Expectant Mothers

By JULIA MEDEW via www.theage.com.au
December 23, 2009

home birth

VICTORIAN women will be able to give birth at home – with hospital back-up for the first time – under a pilot project starting at three hospitals next year.

Health Minister Daniel Andrews said yesterday that the State Government had allocated $400,000 for midwife-led home births through Casey Hospital in Berwick and Sunshine Hospital in Melbourne’s west. A regional health service will also participate, but the Government has yet to decide which one.

Mr. Andrews said midwives employed in the one-year projects would be covered by their hospital’s insurance, and that women participating would have a midwife care for them throughout their pregnancy, with several back-up midwives available if their primary carer was sick or unavailable when they went into labour.

Antenatal care would also be provided by the hospitals so they could keep track of the mothers’ medical history.

The announcement is a boon for women in favour of home births, who up until now have had to pay between $1800 and $6000 for their own private midwives without organised access to hospitals if something went wrong.

”The new pilot programs will give Victorian families greater choice in maternity care and provide women with greater control of their birthing experience,” Mr. Andrews said.

”Once the public home-birth program is evaluated, it may be more widely offered through the public health system.”

Professor Euan Wallace, director of obstetrics at Southern Health, which oversees Casey Hospital, said it was an excellent initiative that would probably appeal to women who had previously had uncomplicated births. He said women and private midwives planning home births had complained about a lack of support from hospitals if something went wrong and hospitals had also been unhappy about last-minute referrals for care.

”If there’s any problems during labour for women participating in the pilot, they can be brought into the hospital where they will be looked after by their midwives and hospital staff. Everything will be seamless. It’s fantastic,” he said.

Professor Wallace said about 200 Victorian women had their babies at home each year – 0.3 per cent of all births in the state.

”Our expectation is that that number will go up as we make a high-quality home-birth service available that reports on all its outcomes in a transparent manner,” he said. Mr Andrews said he hoped the pilots would attract privately practising midwives into the public system where there is a shortage, and that about 50 women would participate in each hospital’s program next year.

Patrice Hickey, midwifery group practice mentor at Sunshine Hospital and Victorian president of the Australian College of Midwives, said midwives were thrilled about the pilot, which would make home birth a mainstream choice for women who wanted it and met the criteria for it.

”This has been a dream for a lot of midwives over many years,” she said.

”A lot of women don’t want to have home births in an isolated fashion, but are more than happy to do it in a collaborative, seamless service for women like this.”

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