AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that a new Australian study confirms the high safety risks and higher death rates associated with home births in Australia compared to hospital births.
The study of home and hospital births in South Australia between 1991 and 2006, published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia, shows that planned home births had a sevenfold higher risk of intrapartum death (occurring during delivery) and a 27-fold higher risk of death from intrapartum asphyxia than planned hospital births.
Dr Pesce said the study sends a strong signal to the Government that any policy decisions around maternity care must be evidence-based, not politically motivated.
"The safety of mothers and babies must come first in any debate about maternity care," Dr Pesce said.
"The AMA supports women having choice when it comes to labour and childbirth, but they must also have access to all the evidence to ensure that their choice is an informed choice.
"The AMA does not support home birth because of the safety concerns for mother and baby, and this latest independent study backs our concerns.
"However, we do support expanded Medicare funding arrangements to improve patient access to midwife care within a quality framework that guarantees meaningful collaboration between doctors and midwives.
"Team-based care arrangements need to be in place throughout the pregnancy to ensure that there is obstetric, anaesthetic and paediatric care readily available to deal with unpredictable complications.
"Evidence shows that patients enjoy better health outcomes when they are treated in a model of care that provides coordinated, continuous, and comprehensive patient-centred care that is delivered by appropriately trained health professionals.
"Australia is one of the safest places in the world for mothers and babies.
"It is vital that we do not walk away from a safe system that has served the Australian community well for generations," Dr Pesce said.