THE number of women giving birth at home in the North-East is the lowest in the country, new figures have revealed.

Of the 696,271 babies born in England and Wales in last year, just 2.1 per cent 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.

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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 has risen slightly over time and by 2008 2.9 per cent of babies were born at home.

In 2015, 2.3 per cent of babies were born at home and in 2016 it reduced slightly to 2.1 per cent.

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

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 which have been released 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 births – the lowest rate since 1992 when it stood slightly lower at 4.3.

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 more.

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 per cent.

“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.”

Senior policy adviser at National Childbirth Trust, Elizabeth Duff, said staffing and a lack of resources mean women are not always offered a home birth but expectant mothers should always be given all the choices.

She said: “Women are being failed as they are being denied choices. NICE guidelines state that every woman should be able to choose where they give birth, whether it’s at home, in hospital or in a midwife-led unit and we’re concerned that some women aren’t being given the full range of choices.

“Whatever their situation, expectant mothers should have time and space to discuss the options available with healthcare professionals and feel empowered to make their own informed decisions about their care and birth experience.

“Women who want a home birth tell us they do so for a number of reasons including because they have already given birth and now feel confident about a birth at home, they want continuity of care with a midwife they know attending the birth, they dislike being in hospital, or want to avoid medical interventions. Ultimately the decision is theirs and services should be in place to give them what they want.”