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Study Shows Having Baby at Home Is Safe

But Pediatrician Says It's Tough to Be Prepared for Emergencies at Home
WebMD Health News

June 17, 2005 - Planned home births are considered unsafe by the nation's largest organization of obstetricians, but a new study shows them to be as safe as hospital births for low-risk women and their babies.

"Home births are common in a number of European countries, and these countries also have very low rates of (birth-related) infant mortality," epidemiologist and lead researcher Kenneth C. Johnson, PhD, tells WebMD. "In North America, and especially in the United States, there has been much less acceptance of home births by the medical communities."

Researchers compared results from roughly 5,400 planned home births within the U.S. and Canada attended by non-nurse midwives with hospital births during the same period.

The death rate among babies born at home was similar to low-risk hospital births. However, the rate of medical interventions, such as epidurals, episiotomies, and cesarean deliveries, was much lower among home births.

The study is published in the June 19 issue of the British Medical Journal.

A Mom's Story

Cupertino, Calif., mom Jennifer Hess, 31, chose to have her second son, Kevin, at home last year based on her experience during the birth of her first son, Gregory, in 2001.

The events leading up to Gregory's hospital birth were uneventful, but as soon as he was born he was whisked away by nurses because of an unspecified breathing difficulty.

For the next two hours, Hess says, she was told nothing about her baby's condition and she imagined the worst.

"I had torn (during delivery) and they didn't sew me up right away," she tells WebMD. "And they sent my husband to the nursery with the baby, which is where he should have been. So I had no information for hours. I would ask the nurses if my baby was OK and they wouldn't tell me. They said I should wait and talk to my husband. Naturally, I was pretty distraught."

To make matters worse, just minutes after she was finally reunited with her baby they whisked him away again so that the doctor could perform routine tests.

"My experience with the birth of my first son wasn't exactly the best, so it's fair to say that I was very open to the idea of a home birth," she says.

Night and Day

Hess says the difference between her first delivery and her second with home-birth midwife Ronnie Falcao was like night and day.

"In the hospital they would examine me when it was convenient for them, even if I was in the middle of a contraction," she says. "But Ronnie was there to offer support and do things on my schedule. It was the best thing ever to have my baby in my environment and not some strange setting."

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