The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said that women must be given more information on childbirth so that they can be well equipped to avoid unnecessary treatment at any stage.
The government watchdog said that births in consultant units appeared to be safer than midwife births and births at home. However more women deliver naturally in mid-wife centers than at homes. It added that a birth at home "increases the likelihood of a normal vaginal birth and satisfaction in women who are committed to giving birth in this setting".
The guidance also said that women in mid-wife centers could feel more satisfied with their labour and even enjoy the process. Andrea Sutcliffe, deputy chief executive at Nice said that giving birth was safer these days than ever before.
"Our primary concern is to make birth as normal as possible by reducing unnecessary medical interventions while ensuring that babies and their mothers are as safe as possible during and shortly after birth," she said. "For this reason we have made recommendations in the draft guideline about the importance of communicating information to women about the risks and benefits of all places for birth so they can make an informed choice about which setting is right for them. "
Health minister Ivan Lewis said that the government wanted all women to have a choice by 2009. "We believe that we have to trust and respect women. Give them the information and then allow them to make the best choice for themselves," he added.