As More and More Couples are Opting for Home Birth, a Study Explores the Risks

A new study shows that the couples who go for home births take a slightly increased risk for their newborns. It can cause serious complications and can even lead to the death of the baby. An analysis of 1,000 births in Oregon that were supposed to occur at home shows that 3.9 out of the 1,000 end in perinatal deaths. That’s more than double the 1.8 perinatal deaths out of 1,000 births that take place in a hospital, says a report recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers also calculated that there are 1.52 additional deaths per 1,000 births that take place in a less medicalized setting. That means, there is a 2.43 times greater risk that a baby born at home or in a birthing center will die before it’s delivered or within 28 days after birth.

The government began to keep track of the increasing number of births occurring outside hospitals in 1989. According to National Center for Health Statistics, in 2014 alone, 59,000 births took place outside hospitals. They constitute 1.5% of the total number of births in the U.S. Nearly one-third of the births took place in birthing centers. Rest of the out-of-hospital births took place at home.

Sometimes mother and baby are moved to a hospital in time if things start going wrong even if the birth was planned to take place at home. This factor results in the risk of having a baby at home being understated. The study further concentrates on the 79,727 births that took place in 2012 and 2013 that involved a full term singleton ready to enter the birth canal head-first. Out of these, 3,804 were planned to take place at birthing centers or homes though 601 of them ended up being moved to a hospital.

The key factor is where the couples planned to have their babies and not where the births actually took place. Oregon has adopted a new birth certificate that asks women where they had planned the births to take place. Also, the highest number of home births took place in Oregon in 2012. Out of the total births, 2.4% took place at home whereas 1.6% took place in birthing centers.

The mothers who planned to have babies at home were also found to be older and in better health. They were also more likely to be white and to be able to pay their medical bills or to have private insurance.

There is, however, no difference in deaths before the baby has been completely separated from its mother for out of hospital and hospital births. But the research found that such deaths were slightly more likely when the birth was planned to take place at home. The number of neonatal deaths i.e. death within 28 days of birth, are significantly higher when the birth was supposed to take place at home and not in a hospital.

There are also possibilities that the child will suffer seizures or require ventilator when births were planned to take place outside a hospital. The child that is not born in a hospital is more likely to be in need of medical attention according to the research.

On a brighter side, obstetrical procedures are less likely to happen if the birth was planned to take place at home. The authors of the study say at the end that it’s up to each woman to decide on the issue after weighing the benefits of planning a home birth against delivering a baby in a hospital. There are fewer medical interventions at home and more comfortable surroundings. Where Medical services are readily available in a hospital in rare cases when they are required.