A leading midwife has claimed that doctors are running a 'calculated backlash' against home births by suggesting they are more dangerous than giving birth in hospital.
Professor Cathy Warwick, leader of the Royal College of Midwives, said there was no difference in safety rates at hospital and at home for low-risk women, providing well-staffed maternity services are available.
Around 18,000 women gave birth at home in England last year – 2.7 per cent of women having babies.
Professor Warwick said some doctors 'seem to be unprepared to accept the evidence' from research showing the relative safety of home births.
They are comparing 'apples and pears' by publishing studies which misleadingly suggest home birth is unsafe, she said.
'You cannot compare home birth globally and reach scientific conclusions.
'We feel that there is a concerted and calculated backlash by sectors of the establishment against homebirth and midwife-led care.
'The reason that most women need to transfer into hospital, having chosen to have a home birth, is because of complications which are not emergencies.'
She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: 'Midwives in the UK are highly trained, highly competent and able to relate to obstetricians, who actually support home birth in the UK.'
When asked if doctors were too keen automatically to refer women for a hospital delivery, she replied: 'I think some doctors are too prone to do that. There are a few doctors who just seem to be unprepared to accept the evidence.'
Mary Newburn, head of research and information at the parenting charity the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said home births should be 'a mainstream option' along with maternity units for women. She said access for home births was currently 'limited'.
Ms Newburn said: 'We were disappointed to see a reduction in this year's home birth figures. NCT believes women are finding it more difficult to book a home birth.
'There is no evidence of a reduction in demand, but we know maternity services are additionally stretched due to a rising birth rate and too few midwives.
'For those who have had a straightforward pregnancy and like the idea of a home birth, the advantages include greater privacy and comfort in familiar surroundings, more control, one-to-one midwifery support, and the opportunity for the whole family to stay together after the birth.'
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