1,000 signatures reached
To: The HSE
Stop restricting our birth choices
We urge the HSE to continue to provide a homebirth service based on the criteria set out by its previous governing body, as assured to community midwives and service users.
Why is this important?
The HSE have received a recommendation to restrict the option of homebirth, under the HSE Home Birth Scheme, to women giving birth no further than 30 minutes from a maternity hospital. This is not backed by any research concluding that women are at a greater risk outside this parameter.
Women should be guaranteed the right to choose their place of birth.
Placing a restriction on homebirth, by limiting its availability to those who live less than 30 minutes from a maternity hospital, denies more than 20% of expectant mothers the right to this choice. This percentage is also a conservative figure and could actually be much higher.
The current application form for the HSE homebirth service outlines the procedure for safe and timely transfer to hospital, if required, making special reference to women in 'remote' areas. These guidelines are backed by evidence based studies and so, no change should be made to these guidelines, which would result in the violation of a woman's right to choice, without extensive research.
It is also important to note that women availing of the home birth scheme must meet a strict set of criteria and only women who are deemed low risk, by an obstetrician, can avail of this service.
It is feared that by limiting the option of homebirth to a large number of expectant mothers, there will be an increase in the number of "free-births" (births without a professional midwife present).
Furthermore, homebirth in Ireland is also provided by Private Midwives Ireland, as well as the HSE. If the provision of a public homebirth scheme continues to be restricted, this means that it will be families on lower incomes - those without private health care or the means to pay a private midwife - that will be affected by these restrictions.
Lastly, the publishing of these recommendations perpetuate the fear surrounding birth in our society, leading to connotations that birth is something that consistently leads to medical emergencies, rather than something that is a physiologically natural process, without the need for medical intervention, for the majority of women.
Women deserve the right to choose the kind of birth they want. Women need to be given the autonomy and trust to make this choice based on accurate and evidence based information. We also need to have confidence in our community midwives, the professionals who, with their extensive training and experience, know exactly how to keep a woman safe during homebirth.