Home births aren’t actually as dangerous as previously thought, a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is now inferring.
Research was led by Dr. Eileen Hutton, associate professor at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of the Midwifery Education Program at McMaster University.
A total of 11,493 births which had taken place in hospitals were analyzed against an identical number of births which had happened at home.
All the deliveries, reported in Ontario, Canada across a period of 3 years (between 2006 and 2009), had been planned in advance so as to unfold under in their specific setting.
Researchers took into account the number of stillbirths (fetal deaths occurring before birth, but at least 24 weeks into the pregnancy) and neonatal deaths (happening during the baby’s first 28 days).
They also reviewed complications suffered by the expectant mothers who had previously been believed to have a problem-free pregnancy (without elevated blood pressure or gestational diabetes).
Approximately a third of all the study participants were at their first delivery, while the others had experienced this process before.
It was determined that three-quarters of all the women who had opted for a home birth had a successful labor, whereas 8% required emergency medical care.
Among those who chose to have their baby at a maternity clinic the success rate was of around 97%, around 1.7% having to resort to emergency services.
Overall, according to study authors, being aided by a midwife while giving birth at home posed almost imperceptible risks for the baby and the mother, comparable to the ones experienced in maternity wards.
For example, stillbirth and neonatal death rates were estimated at around 1.15 in 1,000 among expectant mothers who didn’t go to the hospital, whereas for those who preferred this type of delivery mortality rates for babies were just slightly lower, at approximately 0.94 in 1,000.
Study authors also revealed that women who gave birth at the hospital frequently had to deliver their baby through C-section, or aided by devices such forceps and vacuums.
In contrast, patients who had chosen just the assistance of a midwife at home had a higher likelihood of getting into labor and giving birth without requiring special drugs or utensils.
Aside from the fact that their spontaneous vaginal delivery rates were much higher, these subjects also had a much greater probability of being able to breastfeed starting from the very first few days following birth.
While study authors clearly seem to favor home births as a viable alternative to having a hospital delivery when low-risk pregnancies are concerned, it’s unclear if positive trends encountered in Canada would also apply in the United States.
As estimates released by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) show, a total of 25,000 births take place in a non-clinical setting on a yearly basis, the equivalent of 0.6% of all the deliveries reported throughout the year.
Approximately 25% of these home births happen in the absence of a midwife or without prior preparation, and the risks are much more elevated than those encountered when delivering a baby at the hospital’s labor ward.
Specifically, the probability of the infant dying in the first month following birth is around 2 or 3 times higher following home birth than after hospital birth, partly because midwives are seldom adequately licensed or experienced enough, and exposure to pathogens and other health hazards is more significant.
As a result, experts such as Dr. Daniela Carusi, director of General Gynecology and Surgical Obstetrics at Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital still recommend that women should deliver their babies at the maternity unit.
In such settings, safety and hygiene standards are more strictly enforced, and professional medical assistance can be provided in a timely manner.
Image Source: Flickr