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Are Home Births As Safe As Hospital Births?

Good news for those wondering if home births are as safe as hospital births. An international study says the answer is YES, for low-risk women who begin labor intending to give birth at home as compared to low-risk women intending to give birth in a hospital. Canadian researchers analyzed data from 14 international studies (including about 500,000 women planning on home births). A midwife was present at each birth. The risk of perinatal or neonatal death was not different when birth was intended at home or in hospital. The researchers defined perinatal death as stillbirth after labor starts through day 7 after birth. Neonatal death is defined as death after birth of a live baby from day 0 through day 28.

The researchers pointed out that the best outcomes are when birth attendants are integrated into the health care system, and there was a smooth transition from home to hospital when needed. In their analysis they included studies looking at births in England, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Canada, USA, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

From Science Daily: Home births as safe as hospital births: International study suggests 

A large international study led by McMaster University shows that low risk pregnant women who intend to give birth at home have no increased chance of the baby's perinatal or neonatal death compared to other low risk women who intend to give birth in a hospital.

The results have been published by The Lancet's EClinicalMedicine journal.

"More women in well-resourced countries are choosing birth at home, but concerns have persisted about their safety," said Eileen Hutton, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at McMaster, founding director of the McMaster Midwifery Research Centre and first author of the paper. "This research clearly demonstrates the risk is no different when the birth is intended to be at home or in hospital."

The study examined the safety of place of birth by reporting on the risk of death at the time of birth or within the first four weeks, and found no clinically important or statistically different risk between home and hospital groups.

The study, which is the first systematic review and meta-analyses to use a previously published, peer-reviewed protocol for the research, used data from 21 studies published since 1990 comparing home and hospital birth outcomes in Sweden, New Zealand, England, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, Canada and the U.S. Outcomes from approximately 500,000 intended home births were compared to similar numbers of births intended to occur in hospital in these [eight] countries.

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