Giving birth in the UK is extremely safe, but there will always be some risk associated with childbirth. Some women are, however, more at risk than others.
Low risk pregnancy
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recently recommended that giving birth at home is just as safe as giving birth in a traditional labour unit. This only applies, however, to women with low risk pregnancies.
NICE states that a woman has a low risk pregnancy if: her pregnancy is straightforward, she is in good health and has no serious health conditions, pregnancy-related or otherwise. This includes medical conditions such as:
Anaemia, asthma, cardiac disease, diabetes, epilepsy, gastrointestinal problems (e.g. Crohn’s disease, liver disease and ulcerative colitis), group B streptococcus infection, high blood pressure disorders, infectious diseases (e.g. Hepatitis B/C and HIV), sickle cell anaemia and spinal abnormalities.
Factors that increase risk during birth
NICE suggests that there are certain factors that can increase the risk of complications during birth. These include:
- Being over the age of 35
- Being obese or overweight
- Recreational drug use
- Bleeding after 24 weeks of gestation
- High blood pressure
- Major gynaecological surgery
- Fetal abnormality
- The baby lying in a breech position.
Previous complicated birth
If a patient has previously given birth but suffered complications during the pregnancy or labour, she may also be at risk of complications. A previous complicated birth includes the following examples:
- Neo-natal death
- A large baby (weighing more than 4.5kg)
- Serious vaginal, cervical or perineal trauma
- Neo-natal jaundice
When deciding where to give birth, your obstetrician should advise upon the options available, offering guidance as to whether you might be suitable for a home birth.
NICE has confirmed that home births are very safe for women considered to be at low risk of complications. The guidance says that the rate of medical intervention (e.g. forceps or epidural) is lower in midwifery-led units and home births. The evidence also reveals that when comparing a home birth with a labour ward, there is no difference in the number of babies born with a serious complication (although this only applies to women who have previously given birth to a healthy child).
However, if you are at risk of complications, it is vital that you are placed under the care of an obstetrician. If failings in medical care cause you to suffer injury that could otherwise have been avoided, there may be grounds for a medical negligence claim. Contact us today to find out more.