Home births a lonelier option due to midwife insurance risk

Interested in home birth, hospital birth or private midwifery care? Questions or comments? Email Melissa Maimann or call 0400 418 448. Link

HOME birth midwives have been left out of the federal government's maternity care changes in an omission experts believe will lead to an increase in the potentially dangerous practice of unassisted childbirth.

The changes ... require midwives to have indemnity insurance to practise ... but private midwives are not covered for home deliveries.

Home birth is subject to a two-year exemption period from the ... insurance requirements and maternity advocates are calling on the federal government to close the gap or risk a rise in free birthing ...

''Unless we can reach a solution, there will be a whole lot of midwives who will cease to practise,'' Australian College of Midwives vice-president Hannah Dahlen said.

''It means women will be left with two options: they can give birth in a hospital or give birth alone, unsupported. We know the free birth movement is growing in Australia ... where women's birth choices have become increasingly limited. Free birth is growing in countries where home birth has become marginalised.''

Australian College of Midwives executive officer Barbara Vernon said free birthing was dangerous and often the last resort for women who could not find a midwife to attend a planned home birth.

''Giving birth unassisted is not recommended, and it's not a safe choice for a woman to make.''

It is a sign that existing maternity services are failing to meet a woman's needs if they are choosing an unassisted birth.

''Women who choose an unassisted birth have often had a negative experience the first time around and find they can't access a midwife in their area for a planned home birth.

''We need to ensure that we don't traumatise our first-time mothers and turn them into refugees from maternity services.''

The number of home births is increasing in NSW.

Last year 599 babies were born at home, up almost 25 per cent since 1996 ... babies born at home represented 0.6 per cent of all births in NSW last year.

Homebirth Australia secretary Justine Caines said home birth would probably be more popular if it was an easier option. There are few publicly funded home birth services available. Most women pay for a private midwife, who is not covered by Medicare ...

... A study last year from the Netherlands ... showed that for low-risk women, a home birth was no more dangerous than a hospital delivery ...

... Tilly Michell, 28, a Leichhardt artist who delivered her first baby in her bathroom on Wednesday morning, described the planned home birth as a fantastic experience.

Demand for homebirth is growing. More and more women are discovering homebirth to provide the nurturing, one-to-one care from a known midwife that is so important to women in pregnancy and birth. The majority of women - when asked what sort of birth they want to have - will reply that they want a natural birth. With the internet so freely availably, the speed of information transfer is so rapid that women are fast realising that homebirth is the best way of maximising the possibility of natural birth with the midwife of their choice.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448