Home Births Linked to Higher Infant Death Risk
But overall odds are still low, experts say
By Randy Dotinga
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Babies born outside of a hospital are more likely to be stillborn, or to die within a year of birth, a new Oregon study suggests.
However, the risk of death in both groups was small. The study found nearly four deaths for every 1,000 babies born outside of a hospital compared to approximately two deaths for every 1,000 deliveries that occurred in a hospital.
"There is a small risk of serious complications that are best dealt with in hospital. They're rare but the risk is not zero," said study co-author Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine. "The tradeoff is, in the hospital, you lose control over your birth experience."
It's important to note, however, that the study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between infant deaths and out-of-hospital deliveries. The study only showed a link between these factors.
The study appears in the Dec. 31 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The findings provide expectant parents with "numbers that give them a rational basis for planning about where they want to have their baby," said Dr. Michael Greene, chief of obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who co-wrote a commentary accompanying the study.
Parents should consider "what's important to them and how much risk they're willing to tolerate," he said.
While the extra likelihood of death in the study may seem high, Greene added, "risk is in the eyes of the beholder. There are people who will see those risks and perceive them as acceptable in order to avoid the interventions that they really don't want to be subjected to."
In the United States, births not in a hospital are still extremely rare, accounting for fewer than 1 percent of births, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. But the numbers have been growing amid more support for old-fashioned births outside a hospital, the study authors said.
The study examined statistics from nearly 80,000 births that occurred in Oregon from 2012 and 2013. Oregon requires extensive information to be included on birth certificates.