Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home Birth Just as Safe or Safer Than Hospital Birth

A new study by Canadian researchers published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) concludes that planned home births with a midwife in attendance have comparable or better outcomes than hospital births in Canada.

The researchers explain:

"Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician."

Canadian families who chose to give birth at home suffered from fewer iatrogenic complications, according to the study which compared data from over 2,500 births in British Columbia. Women birthing at home were less likely to experience:

-Electronic fetal monitoring
-Augmentation of labor (this is a fancy way of saying drug-induced labor, which can be very painful and have other negative consequences)
-Assisted vaginal delivery

Better for the Mother, Better for the Baby

The researchers write: "Compared with women who planned a midwife-attended hospital birth, those who planned a home birth were less likely to have a newborn who had birth trauma, required resuscitation at birth, or required oxygen therapy beyond 24 hours."

You can read the entire study here.

So should you consider a home birth? Yes. Even the most conservative birth advisors will tell an expectant couple to labor at home for as long as possible to avoid unnecessary complications at the hospital. Ina May Gaskin, perhaps the most famous midwife in America, estimates that the first stage of labor (that is, before pushing) usually takes at least 15 hours but in a hospital women are rushed, stressed out, and on a time line. They are told their bodies are inadequate or they are having "failure to progress," even though normal, healthy labors can take three or four days and this kind of negative feedback can discourage a laboring woman and make her doubt herself and her body's ability to birth. If an animal in nature is laboring and senses a predator (comparable to a discouraging doctor in a hospital), her labor will stop. In America, the more a doctor intervenes, the more money the hospital makes. How can we trust people who have a vested monetary interest in medicalizing labor to make the right decisions?

Birth is a natural process that women have been doing successfully (out of the hospital) for thousands of years.

The safest thing you can do for your wife, yourself, and your baby is stay home.


Sheryl said...

Having had my two children in hospitals, a home birth sounds like a nice alternative. I am always more comfy in my own home, and I think given an uncomplicated birth without need for serious medical intervention, birthing at home would add another dimension to an absolutely wondrous event.

MarthaAndMe said...

I had two C-secs so home birth would not have worked for me, but it is an option that I think is a good one.

Alexandra said...

I had my babies in a clinic in France. The foreign environment added to the stress, especially for the first birth, when I could hear the mid-wife talking about leaving on vacation in the corridor.

I found this post really interesting. I'd like to know what is required. Does one have to get legal permission?

My two daughters could have been born at home, since there were no complications, but if I were doing it again, I'd choose to be living in a home close to a hospital, just in case.

ruth pennebaker said...

I'm fascinated by this subject -- but even more, by the passionate responses it arouses. I think it's all part of wanting to be a good parent from the very beginning and of defending the choices you make. Only now, with kids who are in their twenties, do I feel more comfortable thinking other choices would have been fine, too. I went to the hospital both times, but given the uncomplicated births, would probably have done equally well at home.

ReadyMom said...

I used to think that home births weren't a good idea. But after having my last child completely naturally (but in a hospital) I can understand why women choose to birth at home. I had seen this study. I think what some doctors do not always take into account is they treat the medical side of pregnancy, but not the more personal side. I could understand how birthing at home in a more relaxed setting might produce better results (or I guess I should say equitable) than the more stressful hospital environment. Still, I would chose to birth in a hospital, just in case, but keep the experience as natural as possible.

brett Paesel said...

This makes solid sense to me. Thanks for such an informed article!

Meagan Francis said...

I had two of my babies at home, two in a freestanding birth center and one in a hospital. While I don't believe that homebirth is safest for ALL women, I do believe that for women like me--healthy women with normal pregnancies who feel safer and more comfortable at home (I think that last part is key)--it's safer than being in a hospital. I didn't have to worry about unnecessary and possibly dangerous interventions, infections from hospital staff/other patients, etc.

Meredith Resnick said...

Having never given birth I am fascinated by all the alternatives for birthing. I've never much thought about this subject but this has opened my eyes about an important and very personal issue moms and dads face regarding how--and where--they bring their baby into the world. Very interesting.

alisa bowman said...

Thanks for reporting on this study and for posting that great photo. Loved seeing that little foot poking out of the belly. So cool.

Christine at Origami Mommy said...

I had two babies at a birth center and one at home. My next one, due any day now, has to be born at a hospital because of a complication I had after the last birth. I've found a hospital where I will feel comfortable (natural birth is the norm in the country I now live in, too, which is reassuring), but I will always treasure the memory of having had a homebirth. The complication aside, it was by far the easiest birth and I didn't realize how much less stress I felt and how "at home" I would feel being able to remain in my own home!

Anonymous said...

I had 4 homebirths with awesome midwives.. SOME of the most beautiful moments of my life.. and EMPOWERING !!