'Big risks' in home births, says report

For further information, contact Melissa Maimann at Essential Birth Consulting. Link to article

Home birth and freebirth have been in the media a lot recently - here's yet another article.

RESULTS of an inquiry into higher death rates at home births compared with hospital births should be released immediately, the State Opposition says. The call comes amid claims by Australia's leading birth specialists that home births are too risky to be supported by the Government. The National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists revealed that in the past nine months four babies had died during home births and many more had suffered serious complications.

This may be the case. But I wonder how many home birth deaths have occurred in the preceding 10 years? Sometimes things do happen in "runs". I can remember working in a large tertiary referral hospital where 3 obstetric hysterectomies were performed in the space of a month. In another, smaller hospital, another 3 obstetric hysterectomies were performed. Was there an inquiry into this? No. Why? Well, you see, these things happen. Should they have happened? We'll never know, but when our national rate of caesarean is one in three, and our induction and epidural rates are sky high - interventions known to increase the rate of bleeding and infection, i think it's no wonder these hysterectomies occurred. By the way, this did not reach the papers. You'll find that the vast majority of times when a baby dies in hospital or a woman loses the ability to have more children, the public are none the wiser. This situation, where all home birth deaths are scrutinised, and hospitals are made out to be "safe", gives the public the false impression that home = babies die and hospitals = safe and everyone is saved.

The WA Health Department instigated an inquiry into home births in December 2007 after statistics revealed the peri-natal death rate at home births in WA was three times higher than at hospitals ... The number of home births in WA has increased to about 200 every year, up from about 150 in 2005.

It's interesting to read this. The government-funded home birth program is set to expand. The stats can't be all that bad if the WA govt is providing funding for more home births.

In 2007, the Health Department commissioned an investigation into home births after it was revealed there were six unexpected WA deaths in planned home births from 2000 to 2004.

This really is a useless comment. Why did the babies die? Was planned place of birth anything to do with the deaths? If a baby that was a planned home birth died as a result of placental abruption, or something totally unrelated like a car accident, would anyone think that death had something to do with place of birth? If course not!

Over that period, the peri-natal death rate was 6.7 for every 1000 home births, compared with 2.1 for every 1000 hospital births.

This statistic has more meaning, however to be truly meaningful, we need to look at a longer period of time.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister is

"... quite comfortable with home births so long as appropriate management is provided."

I think if the Minister is comfortable, the reports can't be as bad as the press is making out.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting.