Thinking about having your baby at home? Despite rumors to the contrary, that might very well be the safest option for both you and your baby.
In the U.S., home births get a bad rap as being unsafe, but in many other parts of the world, having a baby at home is the more common and often preferred method for delivery. A new study, conducted in Canada - where attitudes towards midwife-assisted home birth are more accepting - looked at the safety issues involved with having a baby at home and found that a home birth attended by a registered midwife is just as safe as, if not safer than, a conventional hospital birth.
For the study, published recently in the Canadian Medical Association Journal researchers looked at planned births that occurred in British Columbia from 2000 to 2004. They categorized each birth into one of three groups: home births attended by registered midwives, hospital births attended by a registered midwife, and hospital births attended by a physician. In all, the study analyzed almost 13,000 births.
The mortality rate per 1,000 births was 0.35 in the home birth group, 0.57 in hospital births attended by midwives, and 0.64 for births attended by physicians. Women who delivered at home were also less likely to experience complications such as vaginal tearing or to need intervention throughout their delivery. The study also found that babies delivered at home were less likely to need oxygen therapy or resuscitation.
Now, there are a few factors at work here that could be influencing these results - or at least my interpretation of them. For starters, unlike in the U.S., midwives are officially registered in Canada. Licensing and regulation for midwives varies on a state-by-state basis in the U.S. and it is often unclear in this country whether or not a midwife is "certified" and what that actually entails.
In addition, even the study's authors recognize that this study could well have been influenced by the types of mothers who choose to give birth at home in the first place. More often than not, these mothers are healthy and have not experienced any other types of complications throughout their pregnancies.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is opposed to home births. But maybe this type of study will increase support for improving midwifery licensure and eventually for midwife-assisted home births as well.
For the record, both of my girls were delivered by midwives in hospitals. But if I had to do it all over again (and I won't), I would consider having a baby at home. As it was, I only made it to the hospital with 45 minutes to spare when my youngest was born!
Did you deliver your baby via home birth? I'd love to hear your story.