Only women who live within 30 minutes of a maternity hospital can have a homebirth 1 month ago

Only women who live within 30 minutes of a maternity hospital can have a homebirth

Will you be affected by these changes?

Last year, almost 650 women in Ireland chose to give birth at home, an increase of 53 percent on 2019.

However, following the tragic death of Laura Liston after a homebirth earlier this year in Limerick, the HSE has decided to limit homebirths to women who live within 30 minutes of a maternity hospital – meaning there are now thousands of women across the country who will no longer have to option to give birth at home.

HSE National Women and Infants Health Programme is “recommending that from a clinical perspective it would be safest” that all women accessing the HSE National Home Birth Service would reside 30 minutes or less blue light distance from their nearest maternity service, states a letter seen by the Irish Examiner. 

It says this includes ambulance transfer and response times, as well as the time until assessment upon arrival at the hospital.

Signed by national clinical director Cliona Murphy and lead midwife Angela Dunne, the letter was sent to Liam Woods, outgoing director of acute operations, in July.

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The move has been criticised by community midwives, who are pointing out that the change will have the most significant impact on those living in rural areas.

'Push more women towards free-birthing'

One of the main concerns, they explain, is that the move will encourage pregnant women to turn to free-birthing — giving birth at home without supervision — which carries health risks for both the mother and the baby.

Community Midwives Association chairwoman Ali Murphy warned that the HSE is “going to have blood on their hands” if the recommendation is implemented.

“This is infringing on women’s human rights by installing a 30-minute transfer limit,” Murphy says.

"That is all fine for Dublin. This does not equate across the rest of the country. We were promised from the beginning that the service would transfer as is, they are not doing that. "

Murphy says she and her colleagues are concerned limiting access to trained midwives “will push more women towards free-birthing”.

“It is my strong belief that free-birthing is on the rise. The HSE is going to have blood on their hands. Women want choice, they want to be able to birth their babies where they want to birth their babies.”