Planned Home Birth Safer than Hospital Birth, New Study Finds

Giving birth at home with a proper plan and assistance is much safer than a planned hospital birth, researchers reveal. However, it is applicable only for women who have already given birth and who do not have any health risks.

Though women used to give birth at home before the development of medical devices and technology, it has always been viewed as an unsafe practice, increasing the risk of many severe complications during birth and posing a risk to the life of both the mother and baby. Therefore, these days, most women hesitate to go for a planned birth at home.

The study was conducted in the Netherlands, where one-third of births take place at home. To analyze the hidden risks of giving birth at home, researchers Ank de Jonge and colleagues looked at 146,752 women. The participants were originally part of a national study on maternal complications and a national birth registry data between 2004 and 2006.  Factors like mother's age, gestational age, ethnicity and socio-economic status were also taken into consideration. About 63 percent (92,333) of the women had given birth at home and 37 percent (54,419) at the hospital.

Researchers collected information about adverse birth outcomes among the participants, including being admitted to an intensive care unit, eclampsia (a pregnancy complication with seizures and coma), major obstetric hemorrhage (50 percent blood volume loss within 3 hours after giving birth) and postpartum hemorrhage (severe blood loss after giving birth: vaginal birth-more than 500 ml of blood, C-section- more than 1,000 ml) and manual removal of the placenta.

The study, reported in the journal BMJ, found that birth complications and adverse outcomes were lower in home births, particularly among second-time mothers (1 per 1,000) than women who were giving birth for the first time (2.3 per 1,000). However, in both cases, the outcomes were much better compared to planned hospital births (2.3 per 1,000 and 3.1 per 1,000 for second-time and first-time mothers respectively).

"Low risk women in primary care at the onset of labour with planned home birth had lower rates of severe acute maternal morbidity, postpartum haemorrhage, and manual removal of placenta than those with planned hospital birth," the researchers wrote, while concluding their study.

However, the authors recommend for women to adopt home birth only when they have proper assistance of well-trained midwives and have the adequate facilities to manage an emergency situation.

The findings of the study both contradict and support the opinion of health experts. According to NHS Choices U.K., hospital birth (five in 1,000) is safer for first-time moms, as poor birth outcomes related to babies are higher in home births (nine in 1,000), and home births are as safe as hospital births for subsequent births. 

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