Number of home births falls to lowest level in more than 10 years

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The number of pregnant women giving birth at home has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, new figures show.

Of the 696,271 babies born in England and Wales, just 2.1% of mothers gave birth at home, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

When records began in the 1960s, almost a third of babies were born at home.

The percentage of women in England and Wales giving birth at home, 1960 to 2016
The percentage of women in England and Wales giving birth at home, 1960 to 2016 (PA Graphics)

But the figure has drastically fallen since then, dipping to the lowest levels in the 1980s when about one in every 100 babies was born at home.

Following the dip, the figure rose slightly over time and by 2008 2.9% of babies were born at home.

In 2015, 2.3% of babies were born at home and in 2016 the figure reduced slightly to 2.1%.

The last time the figure was at this level was in 2001.

The percentage of women in England and Wales giving birth at home
The percentage of women in England and Wales giving birth at home (PA Graphics)

The new ONS birth statistics show that women aged 35 to 39 were most likely to give birth at home while women aged under 20 were least likely.

The figures also show regional differences - women in Wales were more likely to have a home birth compared with women in England.

The rate was highest in the south west of England and lowest in the North East.

In 2016, the stillbirth rate for England and Wales fell to 4.4 per 1,000 total births - the lowest rate since 1992 when it was 4.3.

A woman eight months into her pregnancy
A woman eight months into her pregnancy (Katie Collins/PA)

The new ONS figures also show 10,951 mothers had a multiple birth in 2016 - but this data includes both live births and still births.

Of these, 10,786 women had twins, 160 had triplets and five women had quadruplets or above.

For every 1,000 women who gave birth, 15.9 had a multiple birth - a slight fall from 2015 when the rate was 16.1 per every 1,000 births.

Women aged 45 and over were most likely to have a multiple birth, the ONS said.

ONS statistician Nicola Haines said: "The proportion of women having multiple births in 2016 decreased slightly compared with 2015. This decrease was driven by women aged 30 and over, particularly those aged 45 and over where the proportion of women having multiple births decreased by 15%.

"Since 1993, women aged 45 and over have consistently had the highest proportion of multiple births - partly due to higher levels of assisted fertility treatments at these ages."