Covid has boosted an increase in home births: one in 40 new mothers gave birth at home in 2020, official figures show
- A total of 14,281 of the 607,000 births – 2.4 percent – were at home in 2020
- It was the biggest annual jump in home births since records were set
- This was the highest proportion of home births in the last nine years
One in 40 new mothers gave birth at home last year, as Covid caused expectant parents to avoid hospitals.
Data from the Office for National Statistics show that the share of home births in 2020 reached a nine-year high.
A total of 14,281 of the 607,469 births in England and Wales – or 2.4 per cent – were recorded as “home”. It was the biggest annual jump since records began, from 2.1 percent last year.
Millions of people avoided using NHS in the first year of the pandemic.
Statisticians said this could have an “indirect effect on the place of birth, which may include people who choose not to approach health facilities”.
Charities said that while giving birth at home does not appear to pose an immediate risk to babies, parents should be aware of the facts.
Data from the Office for National Statistics show that 2.4 percent of women gave birth at home in 2020, the highest proportion in nine years.
Is it safe to give birth at home?
Expectant mothers can decide whether to give birth in a hospital or at home.
The vast majority of mothers choose to have a baby in the maternity hospital, and more and more are choosing to give birth at home.
Tommy’s stillbirth charity says giving birth at home is “generally a safe and appropriate option” if the mother has already had a baby and the risk of pregnancy is low.
They said this is because the mother is less likely to need interventions.
And the possibility of having a baby with serious health issues doesn’t affect where you plan to give birth.
They also added the practical benefits of giving birth at home, such as a more comfortable environment.
Mothers should not give birth at home, they say if they have health problems, have had previous pregnancy problems, have had complications during pregnancy or are expecting more than one child.
ONS data are collected from official birth registrations in England and Wales, which are reported to the General Registry.
They usually include births by February of the following year due to reporting delays.
But this year, they included births until August, which the ONS said was because 42 percent of the registrations took more than 42 days, which is the legal limit.
ONS said: “The pandemic has caused disruptions in health services and restrictions on maternity partners.
“Therefore, Covid could indirectly influence the place of birth, which could include people who have chosen to stay away from health facilities.”
The report also notes that mothers were on average 30.7 years old in 2020 and fathers 33.7 years old. This was hardly a change from previous years.
The stillbirth rate fell to its lowest record level, at 3.8 per 1,000 births.
The share of premature births fell to 7.4 percent in 2020 from 7.8 percent a year earlier.
Clea Harmer, executive director of Sands – the charity for stillbirths and neonatal deaths – said it was “essential” that women can make informed decisions about where they want to give birth.
She said: “It is crucial that all pregnant women be able to talk openly about their birth plan with health professionals and ask any questions or concerns.
“It is essential that women can make informed decisions about where they want to give birth.
“Home birth may not be possible for all women, especially if they have been found to be at greater risk due to age, ethnicity or history of abortion or stillbirth.”
She added that the evidence shows that it is very important to have the same maternity team throughout pregnancy and childbirth in order to “build trust”.