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Charl may have had a home birth, but fewer mums take this option.

Byline: By Madeleine Brindley Western Mail

The number of women choosing to give birth at home in Wales has fallen for the first time. The decrease - just 3.53% of births were at home last year, compared to 3.61% in 2005 - has prompted concerns from the National Childbirth Trust.

Wales has consistently had the fastest growing home-birth rate in the UK for several years and former Health Minister Jane Hutt said she wanted to see one in 10 women giving birth at home.

In contrast, the home-birth rate has increased in all the other parts of the UK - in England an extra 1,500 women gave birth at home in 2006 and in Scotland the home-birth rate increased from 1.28% in 2005 to 1.36% in 2006.

Wales still has the highest home-birth rate of the countries comprising the UK, but there is a large variation across the country, with home-birth rates as high as 10% in some parts and around 1% in others.

Powys currently has the highest rate of home births, with 10.7% of babies being delivered at home, compared to Conwy, which has the lowest rate at just 0.9%.

Charlotte Church gave birth to her first child - Ruby Megan - in September at the home she shares with boyfriend Gavin Henson, in St Brides Major, after having a birthing pool installed.

Mary Newburn, head of policy research, for the National Childbirth Trust, said, "We are concerned that the home- birth rates in Wales have decreased particularly given the set target of 10%.

"In order to meet this target we need year-on-year improvements in figures.

"Women in Wales need more balanced information.

"There is currently a lack of information available to enable them to make an informed choice about where to have their baby.

"In addition low midwifery staffing levels mean that too often the option of a home birth is either not being offered or services end up being withdrawn at short notice."

Helen Rogers, director of the Royal College of Midwives in Wales said that the dip in home births has coincided with an increase in women using birthing centres.

She said, "As long as women have the opportunity to have the option of a normal birth in the surroundings they want, then this all has to be good news.

"What would be concerning is if home births are going down at the same time as interventions and caesareans are going up."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 17, 2007
Words:409
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