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Greater Risk for Baby Than Mom in Home Birth

An analysis of 500,000 births in North America and Europe has found that births which are planned to take place at home have a greater risk of infant death than births at hospitals. These findings differ from previous studies which have shown that homebirths are not only safe — but safer — than hospital births.

Researchers looked at the numbers in a new way and they found that babies were two to three times as likely to die after being birthed at home than at the hospital,

The overwhelming reason for the deaths?Respiratory failure and failed attempts to resuscitate.

What’s important to keep in mind, however, is that the chance of a baby dying after a home delivery is still very small: 0.2 percent (a number that is especially small in the U.S., where one in 200 births is a planned home birth).

Also of note is that the study acknowledged that women who gave birth at home had shorter recovery times and fewer complications like tears, infections and post-partum hemorrhaging compared to women who have birth at hospitals.

So why are the results of this study different from those showing homebirth was better for mom AND baby? This one looked only at where the mother had planned to give birth. In other studies, if a woman had a planned homebirth but then transferred to the hospital, it was counted as a hospital birth. Any complications for that transferred birth were attributed to hospital births rather than homebirths.

Of course, these findings will prompt many to say “told you so!” and call for laws forbidding midwives from attending births at home. But wouldn’t that be throwing mommy out with the homebirth baby’s bathwater? Instead, midwives and home birth attendants should be sure their resuscitation skills are excellent and that they possess all of the equipment necessary for assisting respiratory distress. And doctors and hospitals could be open about learning a thing or two from homebirth attendants and what they’re doing (or not doing) for moms.

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Photo: Babble via NY Times

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