Birth: home or hospital?

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: November 11th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you want to spark some controversy, bring up the question of whether it’s as safe to give birth at home with a midwife as it is at a hospital. It’s a topic people about which people… especially doctors… feel very strongly.

The debate is about to get even hotter with the release of a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. According to the results, having a baby at home with a registered midwife is not only just as safe as a conventional hospital birth, it may even have a lower rate of complications.

Three different kinds of planned births were monitored for the British Columbia study: home births with registered midwives, hospital births with registered midwives, and hospital births attended by physicians. More than thirteen-thousand births were studied between 2000 and 2004.

The mortality rate per one-thousand births was point-three-five for the home birth group, point-five-seven in hospital births attended by midwives and point-six-four among those attended by physicians.

The study also showed the mothers who gave birth at home were less likely to suffer from problems such as vaginal tearing or hemorrhaging.

However, many physicians still express reservations about home births. Why? Because if something were to go wrong, mothers giving birth in a hospital would have immediate access to emergency equipment that could save them or their babies. These doctors also question whether the results were skewed due to self selection, because women who prefer home deliveries tend to be healthier.

One thing everyone can agree upon: doctors and midwives need to work together to ensure the safest environment possible, no matter where a mother gives birth.