Home birthing will become a permanent part of Canberra’s maternity options following the completion of a successful three-year trial, albeit with some tweaks to improve the program.
The Evaluation of the Publicly Funded Homebirth Trial in the ACT, released today (18 June) included 12 recommendations to improve the performance of the program, many of which relate to broadening the inclusion criteria.
The ACT Government has agreed or agreed in principle to all recommendations of the report, including that the program be incorporated as an additional birthing option for eligible women.
“The overwhelmingly positive feedback shared in the report highlights that the homebirth trial was well received and homebirth should be considered as an additional birth option for eligible women in the ACT,” ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said.
“The ACT Government looks forward to working with the Home Birth Service Clinical Governance Committee to ensure that the report’s recommendations are considered and implemented in a careful and safe manner.”
The three-year homebirth trial started in October 2016 with interest in the program steadily growing from eight interested women in 2017 through to 37 in 2019.
The evaluation showed that in total, 76 women expressed interest in experiencing a homebirth. Of these, 42 (55%) went on to have a successful homebirth with the first successful birth in January 2017.
Thirty women who initially expressed interest in a homebirth did not go on to have a homebirth; 10 (33%) were unable to due to clinical reasons at booking or throughout pregnancy and 20 (66%) did not meet other eligibility criteria, including desiring a water birth, living out of the catchment area, change of mind and social reasons. Four are yet to give birth.
The announcement that eligible families in the ACT will now be able to access homebirth as an ongoing birthing option follows the recent release of an inquiry into maternity services in the ACT.
The Standing Committee on Health, Ageing and Community Services tabled the wide-ranging report earlier this month. It included 74 recommendations with an overarching ethos that maternity services and models of care should at all times be woman-centred.
Included in the recommendations was that the ACT Government establish planned homebirth as an ongoing birth option (model of care) for women in the ACT.
The report also recommended that the ACT Government prioritise a feasibility study to examine the establishment of a perinatal hospice facility to provide perinatal services and care to relevant women, their babies and families; a day-stay lactation clinic for the ACT; and that the ACT Government establish an official milk bank for the ACT.
The Committee also called for the implementation of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s Mandated Minimum Nurse/Midwife to Patient Ratios Framework for the safe management of maternity workloads across publicly funded maternity services.