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Home-births will now be available to everyone in the ACT after a successful trail.

Canberra home-birthing program expands

Growing demand for Canberra's home-birthing service has led to an expansion to all of the ACT following 100 successful deliveries.

The publicly funded home-birthing program has a 100 per cent success rate – meaning the 100 women involved in the program delivered their babies safely at home.

Following the success and demand, Canberra Health Services expanded the the previous eligibility of being within 10 minutes of Canberra Hospital to allow more people to have the option of a homebirth.

Registered midwife Laura Parker, who was involved in the 100th home birth, said the program contributed to a positive birth experience for everyone involved.

"Women feel extremely proud of themselves, and it's very empowering to see what 'normal' birth can be," Ms Parker told Nursing Review.

"It has a huge mental impact in a positive way on the mother and the birth partners we speak to feel so empowered to be so involved.

"The rate of breastfeeding and babies not losing weight improves because [the mother's] oxytocin and their lactation hormones come in quicker."

Home births in Australia have become more popular in the last decade – with a 62 per cent increase.

Research has also found that home births for low-risk pregnancies were beneficial emotionally and psychologically, with its reduction of birth trauma. Control during labour, less anxiety, and a positive experience of pain were also reported.

Another study found that if all low-risk women had given birth at home in 2017, cesarean rates would have reduced from 13.4 per cent to 2.7 per cent.

The service in Canberra has had a growing waitlist since the expansion. Assistant director of Canberra Hospital's midwifery department Wendy Alder said a lack of midwives in the team was one of the reasons for this.

"We have the ability to offer [home birthing] services through our continuity of care program," Ms Alder said.

"It's a small team of midwives trained to provide home birth.

"It's not so much limited by funding as it's limited by midwife availability."

With a national nursing and midwife shortage, there is already pressure on the public health workforce. The expansion brought concern about whether it would help alleviate the stress in the wards or even remove midwives from the hospital.

However, Ms Alder said the expansion was to cater for the growing interest ACT had.

"For midwives, in particular, it's about women having choices as to where they want to give birth and what is the safest option for them, given their particular circumstances," she said.

"We do have a wide consumer base within the ACT of women who've had home births and share their experience with other mothers who express interest.

"It's more about increasing choice for women and making sure that all birthing women have choices."

ACT's health minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the expansion was welcomed by the government, and the program will continue to be invested in this year.

"The ACT Government is focused on building a public maternity system that supports and meets the needs of the individuals accessing the system and the health professionals who work in it," she said.

"We will continue to invest in different models of care to ensure we meet the needs of women, pregnant people, their babies and families."

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