Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology compared data on hospital and home births and the risks involved, and found that home births pose some risks, but absolute risk of death is low.
In their study, researchers sifted through Oregon’s birth certificates from 2013 and 2014. With a 4 percent home birth rate, Oregon is the U.S. state with the largest number of mothers that decide to deliver their babies in the comfort of their own homes.
According to the recent findings, home births have some benefits such as a lower risk of C-section and other invasive medical procedures being performed on the mother, but they also have some drawbacks such as a slightly higher infant mortality rate.
Still, study authors acknowledged that their research has some limitations since results are influenced by a cohort of factors such as proximity to a hospital, mothers’ health, expertise of people who assist the birth, and so on.
Aaron Caughey, lead author of the study which was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, explained that the main purpose of the investigation was to learn how safe home births were, and make births safer regardless of their location across the state.
The issue is especially important since there was a surge in home births in the U.S. in recent years. For instance, between 2004 and 2008 home birth rates soared 20 percent nationwide.
The recent study is considered to be more reliable than previous similar studies because Oregon is the only state to mention on birth certificates where the mother had the intention of delivering the baby. In the states that do not have this requirement, home births that end up at the hospital are considered hospital births, while hospital births that occurred outside a medical setting are considered home births.
The research team dug into data on 80,000 deliveries. About 2.5 percent of mothers said that they initially wanted a home birth and managed to complete it, 0.8 percent said they had planned to give birth outside a hospital but they eventually had their baby in a medical facility, while 1.5 percent women had a successful delivery at a birthing center.
Women who delivered at home or in birthing centers were usually white, highly educated women with a private insurance plan or the necessary cash to pay for a home birth. Fewer of them had pre-existing health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure that may complicate birth.
According to the study, the raw risk of infant death affected 3.9 cases in 1,000 home births, and 1.8 cases in 1,000 hospital births. But the absolute risk was extremely low because just 1.5 more newborns actually died during a home birth than during a delivery in a health facility.
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