Women with low-risk pregnancies are to be encouraged to have non-hospital births under new NHS guidelines, which could see almost half of mothers-to-be planning to deliver their baby away from traditional labour wards.
Guidance from National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says that midwife-led care has been shown to be safer for women and recommends that all women with low-risk pregnancies – 45% of the total – should be advised that giving birth in a midwifery-led unit, whether attached to a hospital or not, is “particularly suitable”.
The changes, published on Wednesday , have been made because women who give birth under midwife-led care have less chance of being asked to undergo medical interventions such as episiotomies, caesareans and use of forceps or ventouse.
Susan Bewley, professor of complex obstetrics at King’s College, London, and chair of the Nice advisory group, added that infections were more common on hospital wards.
“We’re supporting an individual calm conversation about what is right for each individual in her circumstances,” Bewley said. “They may choose any birth setting and they should be supported in those choices as that’s their right.”
The NHS body also advised midwives not to clamp and cut a baby’s umbilical cord until at least a minute after birth in the absence of complications, and generally within five minutes.