"More women should give birth at home, advice suggests," reports The Guardian after draft guidelines produced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended that women with a low risk of complications in childbirth should be encouraged to either give birth at home or at a midwife-led unit.
The guidance has been revised after new evidence has become available since its original publication in 2007.
As part of the new guidance, NICE proposes revising its recommendations on the most appropriate place for women to give birth if they are at a low risk of complications. It is this aspect of the recommendations that has received the most media attention.
These draft guidelines about the care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth are open to consultation.
The draft recommendations say that low-risk women (women without medical conditions or other factors that put them at increased risk) who have given birth before should be advised to plan to give birth at home or at a midwifery-led unit (freestanding or alongside).
"Alongside" midwifery-led units are based at hospital sites next to traditional obstetric labour wards, while "freestanding" midwifery-led units may not be at a hospital site.
Low-risk women who haven't given birth before should be advised to plan to give birth in a midwifery-led unit (freestanding or alongside). This is because the rate of interventions is lower and the outcome for the baby is no different compared with an obstetric unit.
NICE has published a number of tables listing factors that may increase the risk of complications during birth and require admission to an obstetric unit.
These include having:
Your midwife should be able to provide more detailed advice about whether your pregnancy is low or high risk and why this is the case.
But the final decision about where to give birth is ultimately yours. You will never be forced to give birth at home or at a midwife unit if that is against your wishes.
The advantages of giving birth at home include:
However, there are some things you should think about if you're considering a home birth:
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it supported the recommendations as long as issues around emergency back-up options and the assessment of pregnancy risk were resolved.
The Royal College of Midwives welcomed the change in guidance, but said more investment in midwifery is needed to implement these changes.
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) also welcomed NICE's proposed changes.
However, the Birth Trauma Association has concerns over the research that was the basis for these recommendations, and fears that this guidance could put women at risk.
Consultation is open until June 24 2014. If you wish to take part, you will need to register as an individual stakeholder, or contact the registered stakeholder organisation that most closely represents your interests and pass your comments to them.