Home births may be ‘pushed underground’ 


The Federal Government's move to regulate the role of independent midwives in home births is a decision based on fear of extreme medical voices and not in the best interests of women, according to a leading midwifery expert.

Midwifery lecturer at Charles Darwin University, Ms Jennifer Cameron said the report was very clear in that it did not support reforms that increased or funded women’s access to home birth.

“Women will continue to have babies at home, removing independent midwives and saying we won't do homebirths won't solve the problem,” she said.

“Most women birthing at home without a trained caregiver do so because they are unable to access midwifery care at home, and are unwilling to use hospital-based services.

“It is frequently a choice made in desperation and the best way to assist these women is to provide them access to a high standard of midwifery care in their preferred venue.”

From mid-2010, midwives will be required to hold professional indemnity insurance as a condition of practice, under the Australian Government's plan to streamline registration requirements for all health professionals.

Ms Cameron said that although the review proposed some promising reforms and the potential to bring huge breakthroughs in many areas of maternity care,  the move to effectively make homebirths “illegal” lacked any real basis and could ultimately lead to women being unattended when giving birth.

“The reviewers overlook the likelihood that their proposal that homebirth midwifery be allowed to become illegal will push more women into unattended home birth,” she said.

“This will ensure an absence of standards, monitoring or evaluation of any home-birth outcomes.

“Given that safety and quality are key concepts underpinning the recommendations of the report, this seems counterproductive.”

Ms Cameron said she believed the Government needed to support midwives' indemnity costs as it had for obstetricians and other doctors to the tune of $54 million.

“If this financial support is denied, you will have a number of people going underground, making very fragile, secretive arrangements," she said.

Ms Cameron said that although some reference was made to scientific evidence on some issues in the report, no reference was made to evidence regarding the outcomes of home birth.

“It appears that medical opposition alone informs the review’s position,” she said.