When it comes to giving birth, women’s experiences of home births are overwhelmingly more positive than hospital births, a new study has shown.
This marks the first time that the experiences of women giving birth at home has been compared to those giving birth in hospital. It is also the largest published study on home births in Ireland in over 25 years.
It involved an online survey of 141 women. Those who had given birth at home rated the experience as 9.7 out of 10 compared to an average score of 5.5 out of 10 for hospital births.
Furthermore, the study also found that within the hospital setting, midwifery-led care scored much higher than consultant-led care – 6.4 out of 10 versus just 4.9 out of 10.
“Better continuity of care, greater bodily integrity and more informed consent during home births were identified by participants as some of the reasons why their home birth experience was more positive than their hospital birth.
“Many of those who participated in the study felt that interventions routinely offered in hospital were unwanted or unnecessary and would alter the natural course of birth, with a perception that hospital policies and procedures were often at odds with individual birth preferences and aspirations,” explained lead researcher, Soma Gregory, of the School of Social Work and Social Policy in Trinity College Dublin.
She noted that participants expressed feelings of “joy, comfort and safety” when giving birth at home. They also said that their family’s presence and involvement “created intimate and personal experiences, which were in contrast to experiences described in hospital”.
Currently in Ireland, the vast majority of births take place in hospital under the care of an obstetrician or a team of midwives. However, demand for home births has increased in recent years.
In 2021, 650 planned home births took place in Ireland. This is a 53% increase compared to 2019.
“This research underscores the importance of providing maternity care which is respectful and responsive to diverse beliefs and aspirations about childbirth, particularly in the hospital setting. It also clearly illustrates the need for genuine choice within Ireland’s maternity services,” commented Dr Louise Caffrey of Trinity’s School of Social Work and Social Policy.
The study is published in the journal, Women and Birth.