8 November 2019

Homebirth trial labelled success amid calls to make more mothers eligible

| Dominic Giannini
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Mothers have given birth to 17 healthy babies in the ACT homebirth trial. Photo: File.

An interim evaluation of the ACT’s first homebirth trial has labelled the scheme a success after 17 women were able to have their baby at home.

The publicly funded review identified areas of improvement and made 14 recommendations, most of which related to improving processes, risk management and data integrity.

The ACT Greens have welcomed the interim report after calling for improvements to the home birthing scheme back in March but are still urging the Government to expand the program to ensure more women have the choice to give birth at home.

Women between the ages of 18 and 40 who have previously had a healthy pregnancy and live in a safe working environment within the catchment area are eligible for the trial.

Member for Murrumbidgee and ACT Greens Women’s spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur said the process was safe and healthy but reiterated the view that the current scheme was too restrictive.

“It’s fantastic to see that a trial of the ACT’s first homebirth program has seen 17 healthy babies brought into the world,” Ms Le Couteur said.

But she added that “the current program does not even allow healthy first-time mothers who have had no complications to enrol [nor] mothers who live more than 15 minutes from the hospital catchment”.

“The Greens would also like to see the eligibility criteria relaxed to allow for more healthy mothers to birth at home – better supporting mothers and families as well as reducing unnecessary pressure on our hospitals.”

One woman dropped out of the trial to give birth in water, something that isn’t permitted in the scheme.

Of the 17 women who remained enrolled in the trial until October 30, 2018, all successfully gave birth at home. None of the women required additional care in hospital during labour or birth, and although some of them were taken to the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children (CHWC) after giving birth, none suffered any long-term complications.


Image: Supplied.

“It’s clear that in uncomplicated pregnancies, homebirth is a safe and healthy option for women,” Ms Le Couteur said.

The Australian College of Midwives (ACT) and CHWC had previously called the trial inadequate and restrictive, while a Primary Home Birth Midwives’ submission called for the program to cover a larger catchment area within a city that has the infrastructure to support it.

“When women cannot access care that meets their needs, they are more likely to look at alternative options, which may include disengaging from services altogether and free birthing. The other alternative is that we force women to seek private midwifery services, which can cost them thousands of dollars out of pocket,” the submission stated.

The report concluded that the progression to the final external evaluation would commence within the homebirth trial framework recommendation.

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