Home Birth May Be Best for Low Risk Pregnancy


pregnant womanHere in the US, while rates of homebirth are constantly rising, there's still a large stigma attached that suggests that it's unsafe, even for normal, low-risk pregnancies. Heck, there are some people who have said (very wrongly) that elective c-sections are safer than home births. Eek!

So I'm crushing a little on the University of Oxford Dr. Peter Brocklehurst. He said, "Birth isn't an abnormal process, it's a physiological process. And if your pregnancy and labor is not complicated, then you don't need a high level of specific expertise."

His study showed that 50 percent of women were in no more danger when having a home birth than if they gave birth at a hospital.

Yes, this study was in Britain, but since we're all human, American moms -- this means you too. However, they do point out that in their maternity system, most births (60 percent) are attended by midwives, and birthing centers are much, much more common. Here in the US, not only are most of our births in hospitals, but training of midwives varies state to state. Some states don't even have any regulations on teachings. So a British midwife may be trained in many more methods than an American nurse-midwife attending an OB. We also have fewer birth centers in America, which could be why.

The study looked at 64,500 mothers, all low risk (no twins or needed c-sections), divided relatively evenly between hospital, home birth, and free-standing birthing centers, they found there was almost no difference in the health of the baby with where the mother gave birth. Of the women who did transfer to a hospital, only 10 percent were because of fetal distress. The rest were because of maternal fatigue or the desire for an epidural after a long labor -- 45 percent of first time mothers transferred, but only 12 percent of experienced moms did, showing that it's more of a "faith in your body and ability" issue than anything.

A slightly higher risk of complications for first-time home birthers was also noted, but those risks also disappeared with subsequent birthing moms, so again, maybe education of the process or ability to relax has something to do with it?

But a biggie -- more than 11 percent of the low-risk women who chose a hospital ended up with a c-section, compared to 2.8 percent of the women who birthed at or started at home. That kind of number is one of the reasons many women choose home birth.

Unlike the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology who is staunchly anti-home birth, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynocologogists states that they approve of appropriately selected home birth. Very cool.

Really, I'd like to see our country, instead of demonizing things, look instead to further proper education so those things can be intelligently supported. There are a lot of countries out there with much better birth ratings than we have, so I'm more than willing to look to them for advice. So far, many of these countries think that home birth, or birthing centers, are not only fine but even appropriate and perfectly safe for at least half of women, who are considered "low-risk," or what I like to call typical ... or even normal. That said, if you CHOOSE a hospital, more power to you -- but don't be scared into that choice.

Do you think home birth is safe for "low risk" women?

Image via davhor/Flickr

delivery, homebirth, labor & delivery


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Kritika Kritika

"His study showed that 50 percent of women were in no more danger when having a home birth than they if they gave birth at a hospital."

And the other 50 percent?

miche... micheledo

I am having my first homebirth in January!!!!

nonmember avatar Angela

What you fail to mention from many of the articles written about the push for home births here in the UK is that state of the NHS (national healthcare) hospitals. Many facilities are understaffed, room shortage is very common and lacks the proper funding. I believe the Royal College is saying that some homebirths are actually safer because the antenatal wards are in such a terrible state and you might be better off at home! Plus in a typical antenatal ward you share the room with about 6 other women and their babies. Nurseries do not exist in the public section.

nonmember avatar Shelly

Another home birth article. How original, Stir. What has it been...a few days? I thin the actual important part of this article is..."they found there was almost no difference in the health of the baby with where the mother gave birth."

nonmember avatar Angela

Also, if you look at the numbers in the Netherlands where homebirth is quite common the infant mortality rate during the first month is alarmingly high. I believe I read this in a Guardian article talking about the pro and cons of homebirth.

elfis... elfishpirat

Of course homebirths are safer. Once you go to a hospital, you are on the clock. If your labor doesn't meet with their cookie-cutter standards, they start pushing interventions. Fetal monitoring, pitocin, epidurals, and finally, C-section. It's ridiculous. The United States has one of the highest rates of maternal and newborn death in the developed world. Why would someone go to the hospital, where your chances of infection grow exponentially? My house has never given anyone MRSA or Pneumonia.

Kritika Kritika

Bully for you, elfishpirat.

Jackie Jacobs

uh...angela... the Netherlands have a better infant mortality rate then the united states...

Craft... CraftyJenna

Homebirth can very very safe if you do it right. I think safer than most hospitals, since the risk of infection and cross contamination is huge is hospitals. It's not for everyone though and I think the most important facor is the mother being comfortable, and if that means at home, great, and if she wants a doctor, great. I think we need to stop making a horror story out of birth in general, and women should be educated that no matter where you give birth, it's a normal process that our bodies are made for; instead of mocking women for saying they don't want drugs, or saying they are crazy for wanting this birth or that birth.

nonmember avatar Lyra

I think what needs to be addressed is the definition of low risk. With my last birth I was categorized as high risk. I had a previous Cesarean. I was Rh negative. I tested positive for GBS. I also had a baby who was estimated to already be 12 lbs by 37 weeks. Despite being "high risk" I took all of the necessary precautions and delivered a 9lbs 6oz baby boy at home, completely unassisted. The level of risk really needs to be taken seriously. Too often, women are labeled as "high risk" when in fact they aren't.

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