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Regulation of unregistered birth workers in Australia: Homebirth and public safety


McWhirter, R, Regulation of unregistered birth workers in Australia: Homebirth and public safety, Women and Birth, 31, (2) pp. 134-142. ISSN 1871-5192 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2017 Australian College of Midwives. Published by Elsevier

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2017.06.023


Background: Australian midwives are regulated under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme. Unregistered birth workers may provide midwifery services at homebirths without any regulatory oversight. To address this issue, several states have passed legislation enabling prohibition orders to be made (negative licensing) against unregistered health practitioners who fail to comply with a statutory code of conduct developed for those not covered by the National Scheme.

Aim: To explore the consequences for the availability of birth choices for women that arise from the introduction of negative licensing.

Discussion: An analysis of the regulatory framework and recent cases of unregistered birth workers attending homebirths reveals problems with equitable access to homebirth support, arising from issues with professional indemnity insurance, geography, and poor integration with hospitals and the wider healthcare system. These problems contribute to women choosing to employ the services of unregistered birth workers.

Conclusion: Negative licensing provides a useful additional tool for improving the safety of homebirths for mothers and babies, but it does not address the issues leading expectant parents to choose an unregistered birth worker to attend their births, and may contribute to an increase in high-risk behaviours, such as freebirthing.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:home birth, midwifery, regulation of health professions, freebirth, unregistered birth workers
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Midwifery
Research Field:Clinical midwifery
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in law and legal studies
UTAS Author:McWhirter, R (Dr Rebekah McWhirter)
ID Code:121314
Year Published:2018 (online first 2017)
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2017-09-22
Last Modified:2018-06-21

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