Home Births Safe for Most

The above headline is from Feb. 6 2002 online Web MD. Web MD was reporting on a February 5, 2002 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. In this study researchers compared the outcomes of 862 planned home births attended by midwives with those of planned hospital births attended by either midwives (571) or physicians (743) during the years 1998 and 1999.

The results of the study showed that women who gave birth at home attended by a midwife had fewer procedures during labor compared with women who gave birth in a hospital attended by a physician. The study also suggests that home births have a lower incidence of infection and use of drugs for pain. Additionally, women in the home birth group were less likely to have epidural analgesia, have their labor induced, or have an episiotomy.

In as far as the overall safety of home births, the researchers concluded that the number of deaths was similar to that found in other studies and the difference in death rate between the two groups was too small to be statistically important. The conclusions of the researchers as published in the journal were as follows: "Interpretation: There was no increased maternal or neonatal risk associated with planned home birth under the care of a regulated midwife. The rates of some adverse outcomes were too low for us to draw statistical comparisons, and ongoing evaluation of home birth is warranted. There was no increased maternal or neonatal risk associated with planned home birth under the care of a regulated midwife," the authors wrote.

In a commentary article in the same issue, Régis Blais, MD, from the Université de Montréal, agrees that this "study provides valuable information about the safety of home birth that should help expectant parents make their choice of place of birth and caregiver."