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One in five home births transferred to hospital after woman starts labour – report

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More than one in five women in Ireland who opt for a home birth are transferred to hospital after starting labour, new figures show.

More than one in five women in Ireland who opt for a home birth are transferred to hospital after starting labour, new figures show.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Rolling News

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Rolling News

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More than one in five women in Ireland who opt for a home birth are transferred to hospital after starting labour, new figures show.

More than one in five women in Ireland who opt for a home birth are transferred to hospital after starting labour, new figures show.

The main reason for going to a maternity hospital is pain relief.

The figures, which relate to home births in Ireland from 2018 to 2020, will be revealed in the HSE’s upcoming Planned Home Births in Ireland triennial report.

Over the period 2018 to 2020, 848 women registered with the HSE for a home birth.

Of these women, 221 had their cases transferred to a maternity hospital during the antenatal period due to complications in pregnancy.

Of the 627 who began labouring at home, 22pc of these were taken to a maternity hospital, mainly because of the woman’s request for pain relief. Almost 500 women – 489 – gave birth at home during those years.

The figures, from Eileen Ruddin of the HSE acute operations, were provided to Labour TD Duncan Smith.

It comes as the home-birth service in the midwest has been temporarily suspended following the death of first-time mother Laura Liston in Limerick on June 5. The home-birth service remains in place in the rest of the country.

A number of women in the midwest region are going ahead with home births after registering with maternity hospitals outside of Limerick.

They are told that University Maternity Hospital Limerick will continue to provide care should they need it.

The HSE provides a home-birth service to eligible expectant mothers who can choose an independent community midwife. The community midwife is indemnified and paid by the HSE.

A pathway of care is set out and the midwife must be satisfied the woman is a suitable candidate for a home birth.

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All midwives complete the required mandatory education and training requirements, meet with their HSE managers biannually and take part in peer review and a reflection process.

Midwives have pointed out that prior to 37 weeks gestation, directions to the pregnant woman’s home are entered in the national ambulance database for easy access if needed during the labour and birth.

The midwife closely monitors the woman during labour at a home birth and if there is a cause for concern, she might discuss transfer to hospital for delivery.

If that happens, the midwife travels to the hospital with the woman and is given appropriate support in the hospital setting.

Community midwives are covered for clinical indemnity insurance by the State Claims Agency through their contract with the HSE to provide care to women at low risk.

Meanwhile, water births remain paused following a number of incidents.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the pause in water births will remain in place pending the outcome of investigations into the incidents.

The outcome is being finalised and considered at HSE national level to determine any learnings and to “address any recommendations made in a structured manner”.

Mr Donnelly said it is planned to appoint an expert lead at national level, with the objective of designing and delivering a national training programme in water births for midwives.

It is also planned to establish a national set of key performance indicators and measurements around water births.


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