Review of homebirth study

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A new study by U.S. researchers questions the safety of giving birth at home, suggesting that more babies die during home births than during hospital deliveries. But Canadian researchers, whose data were extracted and used in the study, say that conclusion is deeply flawed.

The meta-analysis of 15 studies … found that giving birth at home tripled the risk of neonatal death.

[But] … that conclusion is “sensationalist” and based on data that are in some cases decades old, on very small samples and in some cases incomplete.

In many cases … women included in the studies may not have planned to give birth at home. They may not have been attended by a properly trained midwife. And much of the data used were retrospectively, gathered using birth records, which may not include enough information.

Dr. Janssen’s most recent research … found no difference in outcomes between planned hospital births and planned home births. Similar results were found in an Ontario study.

The question of whether there’s a higher risk of a baby dying during a planned home birth with a regulated midwife has been answered in Canada … “The question has not been answered in the United States.”

In the new meta-analysis, researchers looked at a total of 342,056 home births and 207,551 hospital births in Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, Britain, Australia, Switzerland and Sweden.

While home births were associated with fewer complications for mothers … their babies didn’t fare as well … the mortality rate appeared higher.

Canadian researchers say only the Canadian and Dutch data were as rigorous as they should be …

In Canada and the Netherlands, there are strict requirements for homebirth, right down to what equipment the midwife carries to a birth, the education standards of the midwife, the linking in with hospital services as a back-up, the assessment of suitability for homebirth and the acceptance of the autonomous and respected role of the midwife by the medical community.

a href="">Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448