Giving birth at home could become routine

The labour ward at St John's Hospital, Livingston.
The labour ward at St John's Hospital, Livingston.

The future of maternity in Scotland could see more women giving birth at home, with no doctor in attendance - if there are no obvious risks.

In what’s seen as a major revamp of current services pilot tests are to be carried out in health board areas including Lothian, Forth Valley, Lanarkshire and Greater Glasgow and Clyde, in which the focus will be on individualised care and community hubs.

In future women may give birth in hospital only if they are at a higher risk of complications, and the norm would be to have the baby either at home or in a local hub run by midwives.

Health Secretary Shona Robison has described the proposed changes as amounting to a “fundamentally different” way of dealing with births, which would stress continuity of carer.

But the changes would not lead to an abolition of maternity wards, as it’s accepted some women will always require treatment in hospital either during their pregnancy or after the birth.

At the moment only around three per cent of births happen at home, but if the pilot tests prove successful this could escalate dramatically.

The pilot tests (due to start next year) have arisen from a Best Start review which recommends women should have a primary widwife who would be at the centre of a multi-disciplinary team operating from a community hub.

Health secretary Shona Robison says the move would give women more choice - whether to give virth at home, in a community midwife unit, or if need be in a hospital’s obstetric unit - and aim to allow women to give birth close to home.