Calls to a home birth helpline: Empowerment in childbirth

R Shaw, C Kitzinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the UK a woman has the right to decide to give birth at home, irrespective of whether she is expecting her first or a subsequent child and of any perceived 'risk' factors. However, the rate of home births in the UK is very low (around 2%), varies widely across the country and many women do not know how to arrange midwifery cover. The Home Birth helpline is a UK-based voluntary organisation offering support and information for women planning a home birth. In order to gain direct access to the issues that are of concern to women when planning a home birth, 80 calls to the helpline were recorded. The aims of this paper are to document the problems that callers to this helpline report having when trying to arrange home births and to explore the strategies the call-taker uses in helping women to exercise their right to birth at home. The paper concludes that women are not easily able to exercise their right to choose the place of birth and suggests a number of recommendations for action. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2374-2383
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


  • UK
  • childbirth
  • empowerment
  • helpline
  • home birth

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