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25 November 2011, 05:00
A study by the University of Oxford has found first time mothers who choose to give birth at home are three times more likely to suffer complications.
Researchers found babies born to first-time mothers were almost three times more likely to suffer serious problems compared to those born in hospitals or birthing units.
Problems include things like stillbirth after the start of labour, the baby dying within the first week of birth, brain injury and fractures to the upper arm or shoulder during birth.
There was no increased risk for babies whose birth was planned at units led by midwives, either ones that stand alone in the community or which are attached to a hospital, according to the report.
There was also no increased risk for second or subsequent babies whose mothers planned a home birth - the finding only applied to first-time mothers.
The study looked at what happened in almost 65,000 births.
Mary Newburn from the parents charity NCT told Heart she hopes the research will help give pregnant women more choice:
"Expectant parents need support to make plans about where to have their baby, which feel right for them.
"Every woman wants her baby to be healthy and have a good start in life, and she needs to feel safe herself, but different settings appeal to different people.
"Women will think about this new information in the context of their own lives, their personal circumstances and values.
"The Birthplace results should mean more birth centres are opened, creating positive choices for many more women."
The researchers say the guidance given to women in planning where they want to give birth can now be updated to take account of the study findings.