We welcome the new NICE intrapartum guideline published today, which offers pregnant women the hope of genuine choice about where and how they give birth. Sadly we hear too often from women who are unable to access the kind of care they feel will best meet their needs. Homebirth services are frequently suspended and birth centre provision can be patchy while some women face difficulty planning an elective caesarean, accessing water birth or an epidural. We hope that these guidelines will spark genuine change and enable a maternity system to emerge that champions women’s needs.
It is of course vital that women who need or want to give birth in hospital, with the specialised services it offers for women with more complex needs, are afforded this choice. They must also have access to the same comfort-measures, support and quality facilities that women accessing birth centres have available to them. We must also remember that these guidelines are designed to inform service commissioners, Trusts and healthcare professionals to ensure they are offering the very best care and the full range of options as matched by the best available evidence. At an individual level women should not feel under any pressure to give birth in a certain way, or place, but should have access to one-to-one care during pregnancy and access to information they need to make decisions that they feel are best for them.