The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), the authority on childbirth safety, concluded that home birth is associated with increased risks and cannot be supported.
“If the woman is at home, she relies on an accurate assessment of an impending life-threatening situation before an ambulance is called to transport her to the nearest maternity unit,” said the RANZCOG statement.
In Australia, only one woman in 1000 considers having a home birth – a relatively small number — but even though these women are reportedly screened as being “low risk”, they experienced three times the incidence of the baby dying during birth than in a hospital birth. Specifically, there was a huge increase in intra-uterine asphyxia, low oxygen levels in the baby, which can cause severe brain injury – this medical crisis requires an immediate team of experts to manage, which unfortunately is not available with one or two midwives at home.
In Australian hospitals, new mothers-to-be have the attention of a team of midwives and specialist doctors, with obstetricians, anaesthetists and paediatricians immediately available to manage an emergency. If the woman is at home, she relies on an accurate assessment of an impending life-threatening situation before an ambulance is called to transport her to the nearest maternity unit. Any delay of more than 20 minutes has been proved to increase adverse outcomes.
The compromise is for units with well-qualified midwives attached to a fully staffed maternity unit, with seamless transfers from one unit to the other in case of emergencies. The woman can return to the midwife unit after the birth for continued care. Having a free birth at home without any professional assistance, is taking too many risks.