In this new age of environmental awareness and organic food crazes, there’s a new movement sweeping the developed world: Home Birthing. Proponents of the movement claim that hospitals pose higher risks to mothers and infants while critics site similar safety risks in order to condemn it. You may wonder what the research data says but the answer would be “not much”.
The most recent study was published by the University of British Columbia, Vancouver in September 2009. The study was relatively small and the results were somewhat confusing and possibly even misleading. According to their results, the rate of perinatal death in planned home births was .35 per 1,000 while the rate of perinatal death in planned hospital births was .57 amongst women who were attended by a midwife and .64 amongst those attended by a physician.
What makes these results potentially misleading is that there were only 7 infant deaths in the study and the causes are not published. This number includes deaths associated with preterm birth earlier than 28 weeks where there could have been no fault on the part of the hospital or attending midwife/physician.
Similar studies weren’t really any more conclusive in terms of safety. Some show numbers favoring hospital births while other favor home births. Though nearly all of them show a significant decrease in the number of cesarean sections, forceps use and other types of medical intervention in women who planned a home birth. And a similar study done by the U.K.’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (N.I.C.E.) went on to state that women who give birth at home tend to have an overall more satisfying birthing experience than women who give birth in a hospital.
In the end, all of the reputable research comes to the same conclusion: when it comes to low-risk pregnancy there’s no statistical significance in the safety of delivering in hospital over delivering at home. There are risks on both sides. Hospital births increase the chance medical intervention, hospital obtained infection and you’re give much less freedom when it comes to making decisions about your birthing experience. Most hospitals follow specific protocols when it comes to labor and delivery and can be inflexible in their procedures. On the other hand, giving birth at home means running the risk of not having access to immediate medical care in the event something does go wrong.
It’s important that you properly research whichever birthing method you feel is right for you and your child. Should you decide on a hospital birth, find out all you can about your chosen hospital’s polices when it comes to cesareans, induction and other interventions. You have to be you and your child’s own advocate and make your wishes crystal clear to the doctors and nurses so that no misunderstandings occur.
Should you decide that home birthing is right for you, it’s highly advisable that you find a Certified-Nurse Midwife to aid in the delivery. CNM’s provide basic medical care and can monitor yours and the baby’s condition without being intrusive or invasive.
I believe it comes to down to a personal choice and one that will never be made lightly.