Home births 'as safe as hospital'
The largest study yet on the safety of home births suggests that, in most cases, the risk to babies is no higher than if they are born in a hospital.
Research from the Netherlands ... found no difference in death rates of either mothers or babies in 530,000 births.
However, only women who were deemed to be at low risk of complications were included in the Dutch study.
But a comparison of "low-risk" women who planned to give birth at home with those who planned to give birth in hospital with a midwife found no difference in death or serious illness among either baby or mother.
"We found that for low-risk mothers at the start of their labour it is just as safe to deliver at home with a midwife as it is in hospital with a midwife," said Professor Simone Buitendijk of the TNO Institute for Applied Scientific Research.
"These results should strengthen policies that encourage low-risk women at the onset of labour to choose their own place of birth."
Low-risk women in the study were those who had no known complications - such as a baby in breech or one with a congenital abnormality, or a previous caesarean section.
Nearly a third of women who planned and started their labours at home ended up being transferred as complications arose - including for instance an abnormal fetal heart rate, or if the mother required more effective pain relief in the form of an epidural.
But even when she needed to be transferred to the care of a doctor in a hospital, the risk to her or her baby was no higher than if she had started out her labour under the care of a midwife in hospital.
Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said, the study was "a major step forward in showing that home is as safe as hospital, for low risk women giving birth when support services are in place.
.... The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said it supported home births "in cases of low-risk pregnancies provided the appropriate infrastructures and resources are present to support such a system.