First baby born through ACT's publicly funded home birth trial

Ella Kurz and Relja Cvjeticanin with their 2-year-old daughter Frida, and newborn Ari who was born on Saturday and was ...
Ella Kurz and Relja Cvjeticanin with their 2-year-old daughter Frida, and newborn Ari who was born on Saturday and was the first home birth as part of ACT health's publicly funded home birth trial. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Ella Kurz gave birth to her second child surrounded by textures, sounds and items she loves.

The first mother to participate in the ACT's publicly funded home birth trial felt a world away from the stress involved in rushing to hospital and the unfamiliarity of a maternity ward when she welcomed her little bundle of joy, Ari, on Saturday.

"For our first child it was quite hard and stressful going to hospital. I was afraid of giving birth in the elevator or carpark," she said.

Ari arrived swiftly on the floor of his parent's bedroom.
Ari arrived swiftly on the floor of his parent's bedroom. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"This time I felt much more relaxed and having no one come in, being in our own bed, it felt very much more peaceful and relaxed than having rushing and lights going on."

Ari was the first baby to born as part of the ACT government's three-year home birth trial, which will see one or two births each month.

He arrived swiftly and easily on the floor of his parents' bedroom - with towels laid down to prevent damage to the carpet, of course.

Chrissie Foy, one of two midwives present at Ari's birth, said in her experience women were more comfortable and trusting of the birthing process in their own home.

"It's less disruptive," she said.

"I think it [the home birth trial] will have a huge impact on women's birthing choices. I don't feel that it is any less safe than in a hospital or birth centre, we have everything that we need."

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Acting Health Minister Yvette Berry congratulated Ari's parents and extended warm wishes to the other six women who had registered for the trial.

Two of the eight applications were rejected as the women resided outside the 30-minute catchment area of the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children in Garran.

But not everyone was as welcoming of the trial, which is offered only to women with "low-risk pregnancies".

President of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Professor Michael Permezel, said home births were not as safe as hospital births and posed "unacceptable risks".

He said no pregnancy could be guaranteed as low risk due to unexpected complications that could not always be managed by midwives at home.

Meanwhile several women previously told the Canberra Times they withdrew interest from the trial because of the "restrictive" eligibility criteria such as excluding first-time mothers, not offering water birth, requiring the support from a family member or friend and agreeing to an injection to help with the delivery of the placenta.

But Margaret McLeod, acting executive director of ACT Health's Women, Youth and Children, said she was confident in the decisions made by a board of clinicians and health care consumers regarding the rules of the trial.

"I think we have taken a middle ground approach," Ms McLeod said.

"We had many experts working on the criteria and we have strategies in place including running simulation exercises and working closely with the ACT Ambulance Service."

For Ella Kurz and Relja Cvjeticanin, things could not have gone more smoothly.

"The whole process was really nice," Ms Kurz said.

"I would definitely recommend it [the home birth trial] to other women."