The National Maternity Hospital at Holles St (NMH) has been offering a home birth service since 1999 to low risk women living within Community Care Areas 1, 2 and 3 in South County Dublin.
Last week they released their home birth figures for 2014.
In the period January to December the NMH Community Midwives team facilitated 40 home births. These can be broken up into first time mother births (nulliparous) and second time mother or subsequent births (multiparous).
Seven first time mothers gave birth within the scheme and thirty three second or subsequent time mothers, totalling 40 home births in all.
The number of mothers who planned to have a home birth and booked in with the scheme stating their intention to have a homebirth was 60 (20 first time mothers and 40 second and subsequent birthing mothers). Women transferred out of the scheme for a variety of reasons; some were antenatal (eg post dates), others were during labour (eg slow progress, others were due to maternal request for pain relief or meconium staining in the liquor). There were no transfers due to fetal compromise following birth.
The overall rate of transfer to hospital care in 2014 was 33%. This can be divided into first time mothers and other mothers as follows; in 2014 the percentage of first time mothers who signed up for a home birth and who achieved one was 35%, (65% did not) and the percentage of second or subsequent mothers who signed up for a home birth and achieved one was 83% (17% did not).
In 1999 – 2011, of the women that booked for a home birth, the percentage of first time mothers who achieved a home birth was 46% and the percentage of second and subsequent mothers who achieved a homebirth was 83%.
The figures for 2014 match this percentage of achieving a home birth for multiparous women (83%). but a significantly lower number of first time mothers achieved a home birth as planned than in the time period 1999-2011 (35% compared to 46%). This could be due to a number of factors. Since the total population of first time mothers planning a home birth is so small (20), individual variations can have a large statistical impact.
Since the criteria for risk assessment has remained the same throughout the scheme, and the criteria of transfer have also remained the same it is hard to identify particular reasons. It is possible that as with other aspects of the Maternity Services, the Community Midwives in the NMH are under greater pressure with more and more ETH (Early transfer Home) clients and tighter schedules. Could this affect the transfer rate of first time mothers? It has also been noted that the NMH is not currently in a position to extend or expand the home birth service, so perhaps more emphasis is being placed on recruiting first time mothers for the less labour intensive DOMINO scheme rather than the home birth scheme. Hopefully, it is an anomaly that will be redressed in this year s figures!
In 1999 – 2011 taking the total number of births into account, the ratio of first to second (and subsequent time mothers) achieving a home birth with the scheme was 17% to 83%, This is repeated with minimal deviation in 2014, with the ratio being 17.5% to 82.5%.
The figures from the National Home Birth Scheme as presented by the HPO have not yet been released for 2014, so we cannot say what proportion of home births nationally the NM home birth scheme accounts for. However, the figures from 2013 for the National Home Birth Service were released by the HPO recently. and the number of home births attended by independent midwives on behalf of the HSE totalled 162 births. Assuming these figures are relatively consistent for 2014 it is reasonable to assume that the NMH home birth service accounted for some 20% of home births in Ireland. (Note there were some private home births carried out during 2014 by a private midwifery company but no figures are available on these yet, and since the service only started in the final quarter of 2014 the figures are not yet likely to be large enough to alter a 20% odd share held by the NMH)
The home birth service provided by the NMH is a public service run through the HSE. Its main appeals quoted by mothers are that it is free, that there is continuity of care should there be a need for transfer to the hospital, that ambulances are put on standby when the mother goes into active labour, that distances to the hospital are no more than 20 minutes in rush hour traffic, that the risk criteria are not as tight as those used in the MOU, e.g. a higher BMI is acceptable, and women over the age of 40 are routinely accepted onto the scheme and that hospital services are very easily accessed antenatally and postnatally.
The downsides to the service quoted by mothers is that not many of the visits occur at home, that there is a team of midwives so there is no guarantee as to which of them will be with you in labour, that since the scheme is run from a hospital that prides itself in active management, some of this ethos might pervade the community midwifery team and finally that even though the scheme supports women labouring in water, it does not support water birth itself, and women are asked to stand up out of the pool or get out of the pool for the birth if they have been labouring in water prior to the birth.
The Community midwives at NMH can be contacted at (01) 637 3177
The window for Home Birth after Caesarean (HBAC) in Ireland has opened again for some women
Prior to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)between self employed midwives and the HSE (which was drawn up in 2008 for the national homebirth service), women routinely availed of home births following a caesarean section, subject to an individual assessment by an independent midwife. The MOU stated that HBACs are too risky based on the HSE’s internal risk assessment and that all VBAC attempts should take place in a hospital setting.
The HSE’s risk assessment on VBAC in the community in turn informs the State’s Clinical Indemnity Scheme (CIS), which will not offer indemnity to self employed community midwives working in the community to attend HBACs. However, the self employed community midwives who carry out home birth care on behalf of the HSE are required by legislation (The Nurses and Midwives Act of 2012) to be fully indemnified in order to offer care in the community Currently, the only available indemnity for a self employed community midwife is that offered by the CIS. Self employed midwives are therefore prevented from taking women on who have had a previous caesarean birth, even if they have successfully birthed at home before. Therefore in Ireland as of 2008, there have been no indemnified HBACs attended by self employed community midwives.
Instead women travelled outside the jurisdiction to avail of a HBAC, or they birthed alone without professional medical attendance. Read Rachel Singleton s journey to the UK to have her HBAC here.
She lost that high court case, and went on to have her baby in the UK.
Aja ‘s case threw into the limelight the issues surrounding the safety of VBAC and also the VBAC rates in Ireland. Until March 2014, there were no VBAC rates released by the HSE. However last year the HSE released its VBAC rates to AIMSI
The figures show that VBAC rates are very low, although AIMSI issued a caveat with the data saying that it was possible that some of the hospitals with a 0% VBAC rate may have had problems with data coding. The highest rate for VBAC in Ireland is in the National Maternity Hospital with a rate of 33%. Some hospitals however, have a very low rate indeed of less than 5%. Coupled with a high primary cesarean rate, these figures are understandably worrying for mothers who are hoping for a normal delivery on their first baby or for a VBAC on a subsequent baby in hospital. A point also worth bearing in mind with respect to the interpretation of published VBAC rates is whether the VBAC rate is based on all women with a previous cesarean, who birthed in that hospital or whether the rate quoted is just based on those women with a previous caesarean who have already been pre selected for a trial of labour in that hospital. So, a maternity unit might have a high rate of repeat cesarean and only allow a very small number of low risk women to attempt a VBAC and so that hospital may then achieve a high VBAC “rate.”
Why are the VBAC rates in Irish Maternity units so low? Part of the reason is our heavily medicalised approach to birth, but also partly because of the fear that health care professionals have of uterine rupture. However, the quoted rates of uterine rupture are often erroneous. It is often routinely quoted as 1 in 200 (0.5%). However, the research indicates that it is nowhere near that high in large maternity hospitals where women are properly screened. Neither of course, is it anywhere near that high at home.
“In a woman with one previous caesarean, the decision to opt for a planned elective repeat CS or a planned trial of labour may be influenced by the perceived risk of UR. National guidelines and large reviews quote different risks, for example, 0.2-1.5% (SOGC 2005), 1.0% (WHO 2005), 0.2-0.7% (RCOG 2007), 0.5-.7% (RANZCOG 2010), 0.5% (AHRQ 2010), 0.5-0.9% (ACOG 2010). In the setting of a large Irish maternity hospital with strict guidelines for a TOLAC, the UR rate was 2 per 1000 overall, and 1 per 1000 for women in spontaneous labour who did not receive oxytocin augmentation”
(Turner et al, 2006). Quoted in http://www.hse.ie/eng/about/Who/clinical/natclinprog/obsandgynaeprogramme/guide5.pdf
Furthermore, if a uterine rupture should occur, the National Obstetric Guidelines Suggest that the the chances of a baby dying as a result are very low at 0.001%.
The overall rate of rupture-related death with a TOLAC is low and has been estimated as 1 in 1000 approximately (Landon et al 2004; Scott et al, 2011). One study reported no serious neonatal morbidity in 78 cases of UR when less than 17 minutes elapsed between a prolonged fetal heart rate abnormality and delivery (Leung AS et al, 1993). In a Dublin study of 4021 women undergoing TOLAC,
there were no cases of HIE or intrapartum death (Turner et al, 2006). Quoted in http://www.hse.ie/eng/about/Who/clinical/natclinprog/obsandgynaeprogramme/guide5.pdf
It is not surprising that with the stresses and limitations placed on successful VBAC in hospital so many women are keen to have a VBAC at home; a HBAC. Many women who have previously birthed at home, but who may have been required to have a cesarean due to an isolated issue with a previous pregnancy e.g. transverse breech would also like to have a HBAC.
We already know that opting for a home birth for any woman will reduce her chances of a cesarean, so opting for a homebirth as a HBAC should be no different. It might in fact be the best treatment a woman with a previous cesarean needs in order to avoid a repeat unwanted cesarean.
A study way back in 1997 in the UK “Home Births – The report of the 1994 Confidential Enquiry by the National Birthday Trust Fund Edited by Geoffrey Chamberlain, Ann Wraight and Patricia Crowley
Parthenon Publishing, 1997.” looked at the safety of home births and part of the study included looking at the outcomes of a small number of HBAC mothers (53). The study found that 72% of them gave birth at home without incident and 28% transferred into hospital care (antenatally or during labour) where some of them went on to have a VBAC in hospital.
The primary risks associated with uterine rupture are unlikely to occur at home, for example there will be no oxytocic drugs used, there will be no induction of labour, there will be no CTG, and there will be no labouring by the clock. Equally as important, the mother will not be left on her own, but will be closely observed throughout her labour by a midwife who knows her and her baby, and who has given her and her baby full continuity of care, and as in a hospital setting she will have been screened as suitable for a HBAC. However, in the unlikely event that a mother having a VBAC should have a uterine rupture; hospital would definitely be the safer place to have one, due to potential issues with transfer times from a community setting.
There is also no getting around the fact that a woman with a previous cesarean is of a higher risk than a woman without one. Mary Cronk, MBE, independent midwife and breech presentation expert once commented at a HBA conference that a breech presentation was a “normal” presentation, but a woman with a previous cesarean was not. A previous cesarean is a risk factor that will follow the woman antenatally in all of her labours, so does this make birthing at home less safe than hospital for women with a previous cesarean? That we don’t know. We do however have data from Ina May’s birth centre The Farm, where she has carried out 2100 births with no uterine rupture and a section rate of 4%. And more importantly what we do know is that women should have the choice to birth where they feel most safe and most supported, and what we do know is that women should be entitled to an individual assessment.
Also recent research reported in the ICAN website (March 2014) suggests that the success rate for HBAC is higher than might previously have been thought.
“The Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) recently published data from a large and well-tracked series of planned home births, the result of a home birth registry program that was initiated in 2004 . The data set included nearly 17,000 planned home births attended by a mix of midwives including CPMs (79%), CNMs (15%), and other unlicensed midwives. Within this cohort were 1054 women with a history of cesarean section who were planning a . . . “HBAC” . . . Within this subgroup, 87% had successful vaginal births, with 94% of those births occurring at home and the remaining 6% occurring after a transfer to a local hospital. This success rate is substantially higher than the 60-80% success rate reported across other large hospital-based cohorts and likely reflects the high level of commitment to and support of natural birth, both from the mothers and their care providers.” http://blog.ican-online.org/2014/02/28/new-survey-shows-high-success-rate-for-vbacs-at-home/
Amy Haas in an article for Midwifery Today identified the following risk factors for HBAC 1. Previous infection of uterine scar site (weakens scar) 2. Pregnancy less than 18–24 months after previous c-section (causes greater stress on scar) 3. Induction of any kind (causes stress on scar) 4. Placenta covering uterine scar (cause physical stress on scar) 5. 42 weeks+ gestation (associated with greater risk of cesarean) 6. More than one previous cesarean (if no previous vaginal birth)
She also identified the following low risk factors 1. General health (if a woman is in good health then her chances of a successful HBAC are high) 2. Reproductive history 3. Number of previous c-sections(the fewer the previous sections the greater her chance of achieving a successful HBAC) 4. Previous vaginal births (the greater number of previous vaginal births the greater the chance of achieving a successful HBAC) 5. Time since last c-section (More than 24 months since a previous section will enhance a woman’s chance of a successful HBAC) 6. Infection experience (no previous scar infections will increase a woman s chance of a successful HBAC) http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/HomebirthAfterCesarean.asp
This blogger agrees that HBACs are on the whole safe but suggests two potential risks for HBAC
The other two main risks of HBAC are the family’s distance from a hospital, and the abilities of their care provider to support normal birth, to detect signs of problems and to address them in a timely, competent way. So, it is wise to carefully select HBAC assistance; most of the information you need is the same information about midwives that all families need with respect to a midwife’s training, knowledge, and usual routines. You should also ask about each available midwife’s knowledge and experience with HBAC. https://womynwisespeaks.wordpress.com/informed-choice/hbac/
For a few months in the late summer last year (2014) a private midwifery company, UK Birth Centres/Neighbourhood Midwives had clinical indemnity to offer HBAC as an option to women in a few locations in Ireland, and then out of the blue this indemnity was unexpectedly withdrawn. A couple of mothers managed to have a HBAC with the company, but many HBAC clients hoping for care in the community were devastated at the thought of having to go into hospital care and face into our medicalised maternity services with their low hospital VBAC rates.
However, today there is hope for HBAC women again as the clinical indemnity enabling UK Birth Centres/Neighbourhood Midwives to provide an individual assessment process for a HBAC service to women with a previous cesarean section is in place again.
“Neighbourhood Midwives are delighted to announce that our partner UK Birth Centres are now able to offer even more homebirth choices to families in Ireland, including mothers with a previous caesarean birth (VBAC). As always, the safety of our clients is our paramount responsibility and we will continue to offer individualised assessment to all our potential clients. Mothers with a more complex history, such as a previous caesarean birth, should be assessed by a specialist and fortunately we can now offer that service if needed. We intend to roll out our new choices cautiously to help maintain our 100% safety record, so mothers with more than one previous caesarean births will be offered support in hospital or private birth suite options when available in their areas.” UK Birth Centres/Neighbourhood Midwives
At present the company are only offering individual assessment for HBAC to women with one previous cesarean. Women hoping for a HBACx2 are currently not eligible for the service, however, hopefully this will change with time, and women looking for HBACx2 will also be able to avail for the individual assessment process.
Our national guidelines on VBAC(2) state that it should be supported when the head is engaged, the cervix is favourable, when there is a history of prior vaginal birth and when the onset of labour is spontaneous. So all women hoping for a HBAC(2) should be aware of these during their negotiations in a hospital settings.
“Evidence for VBAC2 has shown that women choosing VBAC vs VBAC2 have similar rates of uncomplicated vaginal birth. The rate of major complications is slightly higher if you have had more than one previous Caesarean Section. However, while the risk of major complications is higher for women with 2 previous Caesarean Sections, when compared to the risks for elective Caesarean Section, the absolute risks of major complications are quite low.”
Women planning a VBAC in hospital settings, find that their birth choices are routinely held to ransom by the HSE’s National Consent Policy which cites the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution, (and therefore the safety of the unborn as defined by obstetricians and other HCPs rather than by the mother herself). Sometimes women are even threatened with high court actions. These women, will now be able to exercise autonomy in their birth choices and will hopefully have the option of a HBAC with UKBC/NM.
Obviously, this is only a choice for those who can afford it as it is a private service and so many women without insurance or women that are medical card holders may be priced out of the market. Hopefully by demonstrating safe outcomes, this private service might encourage the HSE;s public homebirth services to look more favourably at restoring a public HBAC service.
The window for Home Birth after Caesarean in Ireland has closed again for now. For a few weeks, UK Birth Centres/Neighbourhood Midwives had clinical indemnity to offer this option to women in a few locations in the country. However, the clinical indemnity enabling them to do so has been withdrawn preventing them from offering this option in the UK, NI and the Republic.
Two women were able to have a home birth after a caesarean with this model of care during the last month.Women with previous caesarean currently on the company’s books and availing of continuity of care throughout their pregnancy will be assessed on an individual basis to continue care. Women who were planning only 5- 6 weeks care with the company at the end of their pregnancy and are not yet receiving care will not be able to continue with their planed model of care, but will have to attend hospital services.
The company’s indemnity for other home birth clients remains in place and they state that they plan to continue to offer care to women who fall outside the HSE s rigid MOU criteria.
Women seeking care from the HSE need to source a midwife, or a hospital based home birth scheme and then be assessed for eligibility. Only women with low risk pregnancies are considered suitable for home birth by the HSE in Ireland. Once accepted on the National Home Birth Scheme or on a hospital scheme women are visited at home during their pregnancy or they visit a midwives clinic.
Women seeking private midwifery care, will need to contact the private midwifery company and be assessed for eligibility. Eligibility criteria are less strict than those set out by the HSE, and allow for more individualised assessment. Once accepted, women will need to arrange a payment plan and negotiate a date when private care with the company will start. Until that time women will need to receive care from other sources; either public (GP or hospital), semi-private( hospital care) or private (hospital care).
In all cases women must also book in with a maternity unit or a maternity hospital so that their midwife can refer them in for more specialised care should the need arise. This will also be the unit that will take over the woman’s care should she or her baby require it. HSE patients are automatically treated as public patients in hospital care and codes of governance exist between the hospital and HSE home birth providers. Private midwifery patients can also choose to book in as public patients in the hospital.
The National Home Birth Service is a public service and consists of 10 visits with a midwife (taken during the antenatal and postnatal period) and the birth itself. The duration of care lasts from booking to 2 weeks postpartum. Extra visits during the pregnancy are taken with the GP and are free of charge as they are covered under the Maternity and Infant Scheme. However, women may chose to avail of more visits with their midwife antenatally or in the postpartum via a private arrangementwith their midwife. Many women, for example, wish to extend their care until 6 weeks postpartum when breastfeeding is more established. The service includes an anomaly scan taken at about 20 weeks and many midwives ask their clients to take a dating scan at about 12 weeks
When labour starts a woman will be attended by her midwife and by a second midwife if one is available. Most midwives offer the option of a waterbirth. If you need to transfer to hospital care during labour your midwife may be able to continue care for you in a hospital setting, but equally may not be; it will depend on what local governance arrangements have been put in place.
After the baby is born the midwife will come and visit you for a period of two weeks. During this time you will also be required to have your baby checked by a GP or a paediatrician and you will also be offered the opportunity to have your baby’s hearing screened at a local hospital.
Hospital home birth schemes are public services and are available via The National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, Waterford General Hospital and Wexford General. The service consists of routine antenatal visits once a month until week 34, when visits for first time mothers may then be every two weeks (36 and 38 weeks). After 38 weeks women are seen weekly. The duration of care lasts from booking to 2 weeks postpartum. Extra visits during the pregnancy are taken with the GP and are free of charge as they are covered under the Maternity and Infant Scheme. The service also includes an anomaly scan at 20 weeks and other early scans such as dating scans and nuchal scans if required.
When labour starts you will be attended in your home by two midwives. If you require transfer to hospital your midwives will continue to attend you and transfer with you. Hospital schemes do not tend to offer waterbirths, but do offer the option of labouring in water. After your baby is born, you will be attended at home for about 10 days, and you will have access to free hospital postnatal services such as lactation consultants, physiotherapy and baby massage classes.
Waterford Domino/Home Birth Service Phone Janet Murphy 087 9243538
Wexford Maternity UnitPhone Sue Ryan 053 9153000
A newly founded private midwifery company, Private Midwives Ireland offers home birth to women in some areas of the Republic, notably Dublin, the North East at present. Their fees vary depending on when you start care and how many antenatal and postnatal visits you decide to take on. They charge approximately €6,000 for a full midwifery service from early booking to 6 weeks postpartum. However, starting care at 20 weeks can reduce the fee to around €5,000 and starting care at 35 weeks can cost as little as €3,500. This is a fully privatised service and women receive all their antenatal care at home or with their GP. Women can book in for an anomaly scan at about 20 weeks with their local unit, or arrange one privately.
Women can opt for this service having taken care in a hospital setting previously (usually publicly).
When labour starts you ill be attended at home by a midwife and a second midwife. Most midwives offer the option of waterbirth. If you need to transfer your care to hospital care during labour your midwife will not be able to continue care for you in a hospital setting but may by prior arrangement attend as your doula.
More information on Private Midwives Ireland can be found here
Other home birth services may be offered locally. For more information contact the following.