Siobhan Ryan investigates the growing trend among mothers-to-be in Sussex to opt for a home birth rather than a hospital delivery.

FOR Beverly Reilly the idea of being able to have her baby at home was perfect.

Amy was born early on Christmas Day with Beverly's partner, Sean Scriven, and two midwives in attendance.

Beverly was determined to have her daughter at her home in St Anne's Road, Eastbourne, because of her dislike for hospitals.

She had her first daughter, Rebecca, now ten, in hospital and was unnerved by the experience.

She said: "I could not relax at all. I just did not want to be in there and it made me very nervous.

"This time round I immediately said I wanted to have the baby at home because I knew it would be best for all of us.

"It was much more relaxing, less stressful and more comforting to be in such familiar surroundings.

"Everything went really smoothly and the midwives were great. Once Amy was born, we did not have to disturb her by packing up and taking her home as we would have done if we had been in hospital.

"It was well worth doing."

Beverly is one of a growing number of women who are being given the chance to have their baby at home.

Former model Jordan has recently returned to her home town of Brighton to have her baby, which has sparked speculation about whether she will go into hospital or give birth at home and whether she will give birth naturally or have a Caesarean section.

An increasing number of celebrities are opting for Caesareans rather than going through a natural birth.

It has worried doctors who believe the operation should only be carried out when there is a potential risk to the mother or child.

The number of women choosing to go for a Caesarean birth in Sussex is about seven per cent, lower than the UK average of eight per cent.

Eastbourne Hospitals NHS Trust is responsible for the Crowborough Birthing Centre, a specialist service that is growing rapidly in popularity.

About three births a day are dealt with at the midwife-led centre, which is at great pains to stress it is not a hospital.

Its aim is to provide a service for women that is non-interventional and provide a homelike atmosphere.

There is no doctor on site so if any patient needs urgent medical attention during the birth they will be transferred to nearby hospitals for treatment.

Because of this, the centre is only available to those who do not have a history of complications with pregnancy and who are not expected to have problems with the birth itself.

Alternative therapies such as aromatherapy, homeopathy, acupuncture or reflexology can also be given.

The centre puts the emphasis on building up a trust between the midwives and parents by holding several meetings and drop-in sessions, which give people the chance to share experiences and ask questions.

An Eastbourne Hospital spokesman said: "The centre is extremely popular and there is a lot of interest from far and wide.

"It is obviously not for everyone and there will be women who will still prefer to be at home or go into hospital but this gives them another option to consider."

About nine per cent of births dealt with by staff based at the maternity unit at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton are carried out at home.

This is well above the UK average of two per cent and one of the highest rates in England.

In the last 11 months there have been 275 home deliveries out of more than 3,000 cases dealt with at the unit.

Clinical midwifery manager Jenny Cleary said the reason for the high percentage was down to giving women the choice they wanted.

She said: "We do not put up barriers against the idea. When women first come to us we ask them where they would like to have their baby and take it from there.

"If there is a potential risk to the baby, such as the mother having had a difficult birth before, then we would recommend they go to the hospital but the final decision will always rest with the mother.

"The midwife visits the mother at home shortly before the baby is due to prepare her fully.

"We talk about every possible scenario and what will happen so everyone is well aware of what is happening.

"There is a lot of interest in home births in the area and if that is what people want, then that is the service we will provide.

"When it comes down to it, it is the mother's choice where the baby is born.

"Women should not be forced into doing something they don't want to do. Our job is to present them with the options and the information and let them make an informed choice."

The Royal Sussex has one of the busiest maternity units in the UK, with an average of 1.2 births per bed per day.