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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 07:02 GMT
Home births jump in Wales
pregnant woman
Carmarthenshire tops the home birth league
Wales has seen the largest increase of home births in the UK, according to new figures.

The Office for National Statistics said Welsh rates rose from 2.1% in 2002 to 2.7% in 2003. That compares with 2% in the UK as a whole.

Carmarthenshire had the highest, with almost 7%, and Powys just behind.

Other parts of Wales, including Flintshire, Newport, and Conwy had much lower home birth rates, with fewer than 2%.

Many NHS trusts are still not providing a home birth service as a priority, or providing women with the kind of balanced information they need
Mary Newburn, National Childbirth Trust
The Welsh Assembly Government has said it would like to see 10% of all straightforward births in Wales taking place at home.

The National Childbirth Trust's head of policy research, Mary Newburn, said more women might choose to give birth at home if better NHS support services were provided.

"Compared to the picture across the UK, the rising home birth rate in Wales is very positive, demonstrating that change is possible," she said.

"However, in some areas there is still much to be done to reach the welcome 10% home birth target set by the Welsh assembly.

"Many NHS trusts are still not providing a home birth service as a priority, or providing women with the kind of balanced information they need in order to be able to make an informed choice about where to have their baby.

"This is short-sighted as women who plan a home birth use fewer NHS resources as their births are usually very straightforward, not involving epidural anaesthesia, an operating theatre or special care for their baby afterwards."

The NCT has campaigned for more flexible, midwife-led maternity services. The services on offer, it argues, should be based around the needs of women and the option of home birth or access to a community birthing centre should be offered to all women with "straightforward" pregnancies.

Supporters of home births claim they are as safe as hospital births for healthy women considered as having low-risk pregnancies.

They say women enjoy greater privacy and more control over their birth, giving them a positive start to parenting.

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