Having your baby at home is no more risky than having her in the
hospital, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical
The study reviewed records of more than 12,000 home and hospital
births over four years in British Columbia.
Women who gave birth at home were actually less likely to need
interventions, such as electronic fetal monitoring, or to face
problems such as vaginal tearing or hemorrhaging, the study
"It's a very important study in that it does continue the debate
about safety," says Karla Nacion, coordinator of the
nurse-midwifery program at the University of Illinois Chicago. She
says the study reflects similar findings from other countries such
as the United Kingdom and Sweden about the relative safety of home
But both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
and the American Medical Association oppose home births. The groups
note that complications can occur suddenly, even in low-risk
pregnancies, which require immediate medical attention to keep the
mother and child safe.
Still, Nacion says she's seen an increased interest in home
births in the past five years. Midwives in the Chicago area who
offer home birth services "have more patients wanting their
services than they can comfortably handle," she says.
Home births may be on the rise in part due to publicized choices
by celebrities, as well as a popular documentary called "The
Business of Being Born," produced by former talk show host Ricki
Lake, which highlights home birth. Also, some expectant mothers may
worry about the increased use of Caesarean sections in hospitals,
up 50 percent in the U.S. from 1996 to 2006, according to the
National Center for Health Statistics.
While the Canadian study provides a strong argument for home
birth under the right circumstances, Nacion says, detractors argue
the U.S. is different. Midwives are licensed on a state-level in
the U.S. and the level of care may be less consistent. Also,
detractors say the variety of insurance coverage, combined with the
diverse populations in the U.S., equal more high-risk pregnancies
that require hospital births.
Still, Nacion notes, America's infant mortality rate is higher
than 28 other countries, many of which support and encourage home
"We have this great health care system, but it's not doing the
best for women and children," she says. "I don't think home birth
is for everybody, but hospital births may not be the best for
Lisa Applegate is a freelance writer and mom of one living in Chicago.
See more of Lisa's stories here.
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