The aim of this study was to examine the extent of wishes for and realised choices of alternative and conventional birth care in Finland based on survey and registry data.
A population-based national survey to 3000 women of reproductive age and 400 men aged 18-24 and 40-44 in Finland and a cross-sectional analysis of all childbirths in 1990 1995 based on the National Medical Birth Registry (n=390, 943).
In the survey 69% of women and 66% of men chose conventional hospital birth as their preferred alternative. An early discharge birth was chosen by 14% of women and 18% of men and home birth by 6% of women and 3% of men. Childless respondents were more likely than parents to choose an alternative other than conventional hospital birth, yet 16% of mothers and 14% of fathers would choose either home birth or early discharge from hospital in a future birth. The expressed interest in alternatives to conventional hospital care was far greater than what occurs in reality: in the MBR data 99% of births were conventional hospital births, 0.01% were planned homebirths and 0.9 % early discharge births.
The study shows a discrepancy between expressed interests and actually realised choices of birth settings. The majority of female and male survey respondents would choose conventional hospital care for birth. However, the fact that even some women who had earlier birth experience preferred some form of alternative to the conventional hospital birth should be taken as a sign of women wanting choices in birth care.