Canberra to trial publicly-funded home births

Issues about balancing patient care with profits have kept simmering.
Issues about balancing patient care with profits have kept simmering. 

Expectant mothers in Canberra will soon have the option of giving birth at home as part of the first publicly-funded trial in the ACT.

The ACT government has announced a three-year trial of publicly-funded home births, which is expected to be used by about 24 pregnant women a year.

Applications for the trial will open in October, with the first home births expectedin February.

It is anticipated there will about one or two home births each month.

"Pregnancy is an exciting time for women and their families and I'm pleased we can now provide women more choice when they have their baby," Health Minister Simon Corbell said.

"Philosophically, it's important that women are supported to give birth in the environment that's most suitable for them and which is safe for them, and for many women giving birth at home is an option that they would be like to be supported in having the choice to exercise."

The trial will be available to eligible Canberra women with low-risk pregnancies who live within a 30-minute catchment area of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children in Garran.

"This has been a level of service provision that has been long sought after by many pregnant mothers in the ACT," Mr Corbell said.

"The ACT has been one of the few jurisdictions without such a service, and that's largely been due to complications with achieving sufficient insurance cover for the government to undertake the service. With those issues now resolved, we're in a good position to offer the service and I am delighted it will be offered to eligible mothers from October this year for a three-year period."


Each home birth will have two midwives present. They will work closely with a team of midwives, obstetricians and neonatologists.

Sally Ferguson, from The Publicly Funded Birth at Home ACT action group and an assistant professor in midwifery at the University of Canberra, welcomed the trial.

"It offers women another service," she said.

"It's a great way to have a baby for well women having healthy babies."

The trial is an extension of birthing services offered by Centenary Hospital.

Women choosing to have a home birth will be required to undergo a rigorous eligibility screening process and continuous risk assessments throughout their pregnancy and labour to ensure it is safe for them to have their baby at home.

"Not all women who are pregnant will be eligible for this service. This service is designed to provide support for women to give birth in the privacy of their own home in circumstances where it is clinically safe for them to do so," Mr Corbell said.

"There will be strict eligibility criteria to protect the safety of both the mother and the infant."

The publicly-funded home-birth trial comes as the government confirmed it has ruled out a previously-floated proposal under which pregnant women from the northside would have been forced to give birth at Calvary Hospital in Bruce and southsiders at the Centenary Hospital in Woden.

"There was some speculation about that about 18 months ago. No decision had been taken at that time and the position of the government is that we will not be implementing such a system," Mr Corbell said.

More information about the publicly-funded home-birth trial is available on the ACT Health website.