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Home births more cost effective Oxford research concludes

Planned births at home and in midwifery units are more cost-effective than giving birth in hospital, particularly for women who have given birth before University of Oxford research concludes.Home births more cost effective Oxford research concludesThe research, in the British Medical Journal, compared the costs of giving birth in different places and the health outcomes for mother and baby.

More than 60,000 low-risk women in England were studied over two years.

The Royal College of Midwives says all women should receive one-to-one care.

For women having their first baby, however, planned home birth was more risky for the baby but still the most cost effective option.

The study used data from the Birthplace in England national study to calculate the cost, and health effects, of women at low-risk of complications giving birth.

It looked at planned births in obstetric units, midwifery units located in the same hospital as an obstetric unit, free-standing midwifery units not in a hospital and at home.

The study takes into account all NHS costs associated with the birth itself – such as midwifery care during labour and immediately after the birth, the cost of pain relief in hospital, and the cost of any stay in hospital or neonatal unit immediately after the birth, either by the mother or the baby.

The costs for planned home and midwifery unit births take account of any hospital care a woman may receive if she is transferred into hospital during labour or after the birth.

But the costs do not include any longer term costs, for example the life-long cost of caring for babies who suffer serious birth injuries.

The study found that the average cost per low-risk woman planning birth at the start of labour was £1,631 for an obstetric unit, compared with £1,067 at home.

When the researchers analysed women who had already given birth or who had no complicating conditions, the cost differences between planned places of birth narrowed.

The authors of the study conclude that giving women the opportunity to give birth at home or in a midwifery unit saves the NHS money and is safe for baby and mother, resulting in fewer expensive interventions.

AVERAGE COST OF BIRTH

  • £1,066 – births planned at home
  • £1,435 – births in freestanding midwifery units
  • £1,461 – births in midwifery units alongside hospitals
  • £1,631 – births in hospital obstetric unitsSource: BMJ study

The study found that individual care at home is cheaper than a planned hospital birth because hospital overheads tend to be higher and women who plan birth in an obstetric unit tend to have more interventions, such as caesarean section, which are expensive.

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