In the developed world, it’s become standard for women to give birth in hospitals rather than their homes.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this practice, but about 65 of every 1,000 mothers in the United States choose home birth instead.
Some advantages to home birth include staying in familiar surroundings and eliminating the travel and logistics involved in hospital admission.
However, many women worry that home birth is somehow less safe than hospital birth.
A study published recently in the Canadian Medical Association Journal might help assuage that fear.
In the study, researchers in Ontario, Canada examined the outcomes of about 11,500 planned home births by women with low-risk pregnancies who delivered between 2006 and 2009. Then, the researchers compared those results with outcomes from an equal number of planned hospital births in Ontario during the same time period. All births were assisted by midwives, regardless of location.
The researchers looked at data for mortality and serious morbidity events involving the babies and mothers. The results were nearly identical for home and hospital births, suggesting that either situation is appropriate for low-risk pregnancies.
Still, there was one notable statistic: Among first-time mothers who were planning a home birth, almost half of them changed their minds and opted for a hospital birth once they actually went into labor.
That’s understandable — first-time childbirth is intimidating, and the presence of doctors, nurses and a ward full of equipment may provide a sense of security.
But this finding also has a practical implication. If your first baby is going to be delivered at home, you might want to go ahead and choose a hospital anyway … just in case.