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Bringing Out Baby ... at Home

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But Going to the Hospital Is Not 'Failure' continued...

"As long as the woman is followed by an experienced home birth practitioner who will transfer for hospital birth in case of any problems, home birth is not dangerous," Olsen says. He refers to two reviews showing that the infant death rate for planned home birth is very low and similar to that for planned hospital birth, provided the mother is healthy and the pregnancy is normal.

Low-risk pregnancies had infant death rates of 2.0 per 1,000 for home birth and 2.2 per 1,000 for hospital birth, says David Anderson, PhD, associate professor of economics at Centre College in Danville, Ky. Only 3% of low-risk mothers intending to deliver at home end up with C-sections, compared with 8-27% of low-risk mothers delivering in the hospital.

All experts interviewed stressed the importance of regular prenatal care in recognizing and preventing potential problems, and of having physician backup for in-hospital delivery in case something goes wrong. Arranging for a pediatrician to see the newborn within 24 hours is also essential, Bailes says.

Other Benefits: Less Costly, Fewer Germs, More Bonding

"The average uncomplicated vaginal birth costs 68% less in a home than in a hospital," Anderson tells WebMD. Home birth is seldom covered by insurance, Monto says, but Lindberg points out that paying out-of-pocket for home birth may be less expensive than purchasing a pregnancy rider. HomeFirst charges $750 for physician-attended home delivery.

But the real benefits of home birth can't be measured in dollars or in statistics, these experts agree. Mother-child bonding, parenting, breast-feeding, and infant health may all be enhanced by the home birth experience.

"It's a family-centered event -- those first early hours are so precious," Lindberg says. "You're bringing a baby into a home full of love rather than a hospital full of germs."

Mothers and babies may be exposed to more types of disease-carrying organisms in the hospital environment, particularly in the nursery where all newborns are clustered together. While the home environment is hardly sterile, at least the mother has been exposed to the same organisms before and may have built up immunity against them.

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