An important study was published recently on homebirth in the UK. The outcomes were very promising and should be reassuring to anyone planning a homebirth. Circumstances here in Ontario are, of course, different than in the UK but similar enough for the study’s findings to hold water for women here too, especially given that the findings echo a 2009 study of home births in Ontario from 2003-2006.
The Hackney Doula gives a great breakdown of the study’s findings and what they mean for women in various birth settings.The key findings of the study from the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit are here. The Ontario study can be found here.
The bottom line for me: birth is safe. For the vast majority of women and babies, birth is safe, no matter where you give birth provided that you have quality care provided by midwives or doctors. For most women, birth at home is safer (yes, you read that right, not ‘almost as safe’, not ‘as safe’, safer) than birth in an obstetrical ward. While the risk of ‘poor outcomes’ for babies (a term that applies to many things, some serious, some not) was found in the UK study to be slightly higher with home births than hospital births, the risk of a poor outcome of any kind remained less than 1% in either case – 0.53% for hospital births, 0.93% for home-births. In the Ontario study, findings for babies were more specific – pertaining only to mortality or serious morbidity. There was no difference found between the two groups (hospital/home) with regard to serious morbidity and mortality for newborns in that study.
There is simply no argument against home birth, provided you are a healthy woman, having a healthy pregnancy in a region where you have access to midwives experienced in and supportive of home birth. That doesn’t mean you have to or ought to choose it if it doesn’t feel right for you, but it does mean that women who do opt to birth at home mustn’t be judged or criticized for their choice.
- Cochrane Review, “Birth is no reason to go to hospital“
- BBC News, “Home birth complications ‘less common’ than hospital“
- (New: 12/31/14) Midwives Alliance North America, “New Studies Confirm Safety of Home Birth With Midwives in the U.S.“