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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elfis... elfishpirat

jpfsmom: I'm not studying to be a doula, and have no desire to ever become a doula. Not sure where you came up with that?

My first was a horrifying hospital birth. This baby will be a home water birth. Hospitals often cause more problems than they fix. I believe a mother has the right to decide where she wants to deliver, whether that's at home or the hospital. I also think that doctors need to leave women alone to birth naturally unless there is a genuine risk (not common). The stats on my insurance's website actually show that the death rate for both mom and baby is lower for home birth than hospital birth. It is safer, and for my situation, a nobrainer.

Holly Hill Shearman

Home birth is very safe for low-risk women.  I am a midwife in Houston and do home births and also work in a Birth Center.  We only take low-risk women and our transport to the hospital rate is 10%.  Ten percent transport rate is pretty typical here in the states.  Women that have pre-existing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, auto-immune disorders such as Lupus, or placenta previa with current pregnancy belong in the hospital!   Thanks goodness we have options these days!

steph... steph2884

If you can do it, good for you. I'm one of those women that have complications, every time. My son, my first, was a complete fiasco... and I WASN'T EVEN IN LABOR! They don't know what in the world happened with him. And my daughter, I was in labor with her for 12 hours until her heart rate was over 200 for an extended period of time. She was brought into the world with forceps and my son was surgically removed. I get so many comments from women who pushed for 3 hours saying I somehow cheated the process by forceps. Trust me, I'd rather push for 3 hours than have my vagina completely rip open... just sayin'. I'd love to be one of those women who have perfect pregnancies and perfect labors with zero complications, I'm just not one of them. I'm happy with my two healthy children, born with intervention.

cassi... cassie19831

The only reason you are at ,more risk of getting a c section when you are in the hospital is because they don't do them at home. Stop bending the facts to fit your agenda.

cassi... cassie19831

Also I had a 100% healthy pregnancy with no complications. Had I wanted a home birth I certainly would have been healthy enough for it. But even though the nurse saw the head when I pushed my sons heart beat went nuts and he would have died if I wasn't hooked to a monitor. I had an emergency c section and they discovered that my pelvic bone was shaped in such a way it's impossible for me to push a child out. I am so grateful that I didn't do a home birth because I only pushed an hour and a half and would have continued had I not had a doctor watching my sons heartbeat.

Melissa Orruego

I had 2 homebirths, no problems at all

Melissa Orruego

Also, they monitor the baby pretty well at home, and if there is an emergency they can get you to a hospital pretty fast, I had 9 hospital births, where some intervention was needed, much of it's not though.

nonmember avatar emily

"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."

I am all for home birth (had one myself) but not sure how you came to this conclusion.
I think it's quite obvious why the difference in transfer rates. First, many first time moms who have a complication during home birth are less likely to go that route again and may even risk out next time, meaning most of the "experienced moms" likely had no complications the first time around and are even less likely to be transferred. In other words, some things just aren't caught the first time around and it weeds out some that would now be considered high risk.
Also, a woman's body that has gone through labor before just has an easier time. That's why generally subsequent labors are usually shorter than first time.
Wouldn't this be a more likely explanation?

doulala doulala

Emily, second/more time moms don't have to be repeat HBers though.  

 (Most homebirthers I know had hospital deliveries first.) 

doulala doulala

I really do think there is a lot of ignorance about homebirthing and maybe that is okay...  to a degree.   It should be fairly portrayed as the safe and normal way to birth (that it is) as women learn about ALL their birthing options. 
  Seing so many comments even here do describe that many women just don't really seem to know much about it.

Homebirth is how we humans arrived at where we are today and is still normal all over the world.
Doctors and hospitals are new to childbirth.
And science has not improved on nature;  intervening in the normal process makes for less safe outcomes.

(And for those of us who are Americans, we pay more for this than anywhere else in the world--   if you're not outraged you are not paying attention.)

;- /


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