Homebirth in Australia: more marginalized and less safe

Homebirth Australia just issued a statement responding to the SA Deputy Coroner's recommendations to require health care workers to reported planned "high-risk" home births (more details available at the end of this post). The statement is included in full below.

Also worth reading is Hannah Dahlen's article Pushing home birth underground raises safety concerns. Dahlen is an associate professor of midwifery at University of Western Sydney.

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Coroner’s Recommendations:  
Short sighted and misses the point on homebirth
7 June 2012

Following an inquest in to the death of three babies, recommendations about the provision of homebirth services have been made by South Australian Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel.

Homebirth Australia has concerns about the recommendations made by the Coroner. It is our view that, if implemented, the recommendations will lead to homebirth becoming more marginalised and less safe.

What was missing from the Coroner’s findings was any real consideration of the reasons why women choose homebirth. Lack of access to quality maternity care options and sensitive providers forces many women to turn their back on hospital care.

Listening to women, respecting their autonomy and developing services that genuinely meet their needs we will do far more to ensure the safety of mothers and babies than punitive short-sighted responses that remove options and marginalise certain choices.

Women make the choice to give birth outside a hospital with identified risk factors due to their profound dissatisfaction with the current maternity care system and in some cases because of previous hospital experiences that have left them deeply traumatised.

When our hospitals leave women so damaged after a birth that they refuse to return no matter what the risk, then we need to look at why.

Any law reform around homebirth must recognise that all women (including pregnant women) have a fundamental right to bodily autonomy and a legal right to refuse medical care.

The right of women to make decisions around the circumstances of their births and to choose homebirth has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights.

The ability of women to make decisions about their maternity care is recognised at common law and by the Australian College of Midwives, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Australian Medical Association.

Women will continue to choose homebirth regardless of the legal or regulatory framework surrounding midwifery practice and other women will heed their call for support if the maternity care system fails to support them to give birth at home.

Contact: Michelle Meares – 0439 645 372


 
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