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Disappointing fall in home births

The number of home births in England and Wales fell slightly last year, statistics have shown.

In 2009, 2.7% of births were at home, compared with 2.9% in 2008.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that the rate has generally been rising since 1988, after dropping to just 0.9% between 1985 and 1988. In 1959, the figure was 34%.

Home births have recently been surrounded by controversy after a study suggested they are more risky than giving birth in hospital.

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in July reviewed 500,000 births across the world. The death rate for home births was found to be 0.2%, twice as high as for hospital births.

But other studies have found no extra danger to women or babies when a pregnancy is at low risk of complications, and women are encouraged to choose where they want to give birth, whether in hospital, at home or in a midwifery-led birthing centre.

Cathy Warwick, General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Even though it is a small one, the drop in the home birth rate is a real disappointment, particularly because the UK already has a very low rate compared to many other countries.

"These figures suggest to me that we are not providing the choice that women want and deserve, and that commissioners are not doing enough to offer them that choice."

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Royal College of Midwives