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Health & Pregnancy

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Home Births Linked to Higher Newborn Death Rate

Planned Home Births Also Associated With Reduced Medical Intervention for Moms

Group Discourages Home Births

Home birth is a controversial topic, and questions over safety are at the heart of the issue. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, one of the largest professional ob-gyn organizations in the U.S., does not support planned home births because of safety concerns and a lack of scientific evidence. Every year, about 25,000 women in the United States (or 1 in 200) deliver at home, and about 75% of these are low-risk, single-baby births that are planned to be a home delivery.

The editors-in-chief of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Thomas J. Garite, MD, and Moon H. Kim, MD, comment that “The report by Wax et al. supports the safety of planned home birth for the mother, but raises serious concerns about increased risks of home birth for the newborn infant. This topic deserves more attention from public health officials at state and national levels.”

Experts Weigh In

Kimberly D. Gregory, MD, MPH, vice chair of women's healthcare quality and performance improvement, department of obstetrics and gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, says the findings will have little impact on the rate of home births.

“Those women who are truly motivated are going to do it despite the odds, and most will do well and have a good outcome. It would be great if women (and clinicians) could take this message as evidence to encourage more ‘natural’ management of the birth process in a hospital where resources would be available if needed in an emergency.”

Mary Lawlor, CPM, LM, president of the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, says there is also evidence supporting the safety of planned home births.

“There is a body of international research that confirms that home birth is a safe option for well-screened women experiencing a low-risk pregnancy who choose this option, when they are cared for by trained, qualified attendants, with access to emergency services when needed,” Lawlor tells WebMD.

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