Study: Home births safe for low-risk pregnancies

Dec 22, 2015, 3:44 PM EST
Source: Grahford/flickr
Source: Grahford/flickr
A study reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal compared 11,493 planned home births and 11,493 planned hospital births in Ontario. The scientists say that home births for women with low-risk pregnancies don’t increase the risk of complications, however home births vary country to country. CBS News reports:
Over the course of three years, the scientists looked at the risk of stillbirth, neonatal death and serious problems among women with low-risk pregnancies.
They reported that about 75 percent of the women who planned to give birth at home were able to do so, and that eight percent of the home-birth mothers needed emergency medical services.
"Among women who intended to birth at home with midwives in Ontario, the risk of stillbirth, neonatal death or serious neonatal morbidity was low and did not differ from midwifery clients who chose hospital birth," wrote study author Dr. Eileen Hutton, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Midwifery Education Program at McMaster University in Ontario.
The study also found that about 97 percent of women who planned to have a hospital birth were able to deliver their babies there, and just 1.7 percent in that group required emergency medical care.
A leading critic of home births dismissed the findings, and said that midwives are more integrated into the health system in Canada than in the United States.
But study author Eileen Hutton, director of the Midwifery Education Program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said the results should be comforting to pregnant women considering whether to give birth at home.
"I'd feel very reassured that the outcomes for home birth are good," she said. But she added that women giving birth at home must take special precautions in case of an emergency.
"As long as there's coordination between home and hospital, you could say home birth appears to be as safe as giving birth at the hospital," Hutton said.
There is a small, but growing, trend toward birth at home in the United States. As of 2009, less than 1 percent of births occurred at home, but that number -- 0.72 percent -- had grown by almost 30 percent over the previous five years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.