Recent Research Confirms That Homebirth is Safe, Costs Less

Good news for mamas considering homebirth! Two recent studies show that a mother with a low-risk pregnancy should be considered a safe candidate for giving birth at home and that homebirths save “an average $2,338” compared to hospital births.

View the 2014 study on homebirth safety led by Melissa Cheyney PhD, CPM, LDM here.

View the 2015 study on homebirth cost led by Patricia A. Janssen, PhD here.

View an earlier 2009 study on homebirth safety led by Patricia A. Janssen, PhD here.

I had my second baby — first homebirth — 17 months ago. The experience was profound and empowering, while simultaneously feeling so simple and safe.

It was simple because my midwife had discussed at length everything I would need to know about her evidence-based practices during birth, as well as an emergency procedures that might come up. This was a starkly different experience from my hospital birth, where I received almost no information about what to expect, or what nurses and doctors would do in any sort of emergency situation. My midwife prepared me well and it eased my mind.

And it was safe because I had an easy, low-risk pregnancy. I was in good physical and mental health; I felt strong and healthy. I did exercises to support my pregnancy and birth. I was adjusted regularly by my chiropractor, which helped align my pelvis and keep my body ready for birthing. I took my health and my experience into my own hands, and made choices that helped me feel confident and comfortable in my birth plan.

It was safe because my midwife is a phenomenally wise, well-trained, experienced practitioner. Her explanation of potential emergency situations put my mind at ease. She informed me of what would happen in specific scenarios, and I felt far safer in her care than at the hospital, where I didn’t know who would be attending my birth, never mind what techniques and procedures they would use.

It was safe because I wasn’t birthing with a trained surgeon looking for surgical emergencies. It was safe because I wasn’t under the care of someone who treats birth like an inherent crisis. It was safe because my midwife, like doctors and nurses, is fully trained in lifesaving neonatal techniques, and because emergencies requiring a hospital staff are very rare.

In fact, one study from the British Medical Journal showed that severe adverse events were more common with hospital births than homebirths. The study measured outcomes including admission to the NICU, postpartum hemorrhage, placenta problems, eclampsia, blood transfusions, and more. The research concluded: “Low risk women in primary care at the onset of labour with planned home birth had lower rates of severe acute maternal morbidity, postpartum haemorrhage, and manual removal of placenta than those with planned hospital birth.

It also stated that “there was no evidence that planned home birth among low risk women leads to an increased risk of severe adverse maternal outcomes in a maternity care system with well trained midwives and a good referral and transportation system.

Similarly, a 5-year study from the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health found that 89% of women who planned to birth at home were able to do so, and that the majority of transfers were due to failure to progress — not traumatic emergency situations. Postpartum transfers were 1.5% for mothers, and 0.9% for babies. This study concluded that homebirthing women “experienced high rates of physiologic birth and low rates of intervention without an increase in adverse outcomes.

In contrast to these outcomes, 33% of women who birth in U.S. hospitals will receive a cesarean section, which is much higher than the “ideal” c-section rate of 10%, as estimated by the World Health Organization.  C-sections, while sometimes necessary and lifesaving, are also major abdominal surgery that come with significant risks. 42% of women will experience artificial induction of labor, which can lead to a cascade of other interventions, including unnecessary c-section. 65% of women will undergo artificial rupture of waters, which, again, can lead to further unnecessary interventions.

Meanwhile, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is pleading for healthcare providers to lower interventions and c-section rates for birthing women.

While some people may think that having a hospital full of doctors and surgeons makes a mother and her baby safer, the irony is that those skills are often overused, putting moms and babies at risk. These issues are important for every mother to consider, but no matter where a mother decides to or ends up giving birth– empowered, informed birth is most important.

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Moments after my first homebirth.

11 thoughts on “Recent Research Confirms That Homebirth is Safe, Costs Less”

  1. This new research study does not confirm that homebirth is safe. It does not research the safety of homebirth. It just looks at short-term expenses in Canada. Homebirth in the USA has been found to be associated with a many-fold increase in neonatal deaths. That’s because, contrary to Canadian midwives, most US midwives are untrained and often unlicensed. US homebirths are unsafe.

    1. And you know “US homebirths are unsafe”, Nathan, because you’ve had a homebirth in the US as well as in other countries to compare how they went and how safe YOU felt they were? How do you know that most midwives in the US are untrained and often unlicensed, do you know most of them? What study has shown a “many-fold” increase in neonatal deaths those born at home as opposed to those born in a hospital? Where are you getting your information from? Have you ever fact checked anything you just said?

  2. It is unprofessional, as the writer does, to glorify a good experience and then generalize it. Just because one has a good experience with homebirth does not make it safe in general.
    Just because you drove you care without a seat belt and arrived without injury does not make it safe to drive without seat belt. No reason to glorify it.

    1. Dear Kevin and Nathan…..have either of you birthed a baby? Have either of you done the intense research most HB families do to come to their own conclusions about what is safest and best for their family? If you can answer yes to both of these questions, then you may have an opinion. Good day, sirs!

  3. The title and article here is wildly disingenuous. The study looks only at the costs associated with OOH birth and makes no claims about the safety. And in any case, Canadian midwifery – the training, scope, regulations – are completely different than CPMs in the US who do the majority of OOH births.

  4. Editor’s note: Originally, this post incorrectly linked to only one of two studies that the article was focused on. New links have been added to point to the two recent studies, one on homebirth safety and one on homebirth cost. Another study reflecting earlier research on homebirth safety by the leading researcher on the homebirth cost study, Patricia A. Janssen, PhD, has also been added for further reading.

  5. Just my experience…but my first baby and I would be dead if I’d attempted a homebirth. This wasn’t just a case of overcaution on the hospital staff’s part, turns out I’ve got some issues that make it impossible to deliver vaginally. I’m sure homebirths work out fine for lots of women, and the environment probably is more relaxing, but every time I see my son’s smile I thank heaven that I didn’t try it.

    1. I agree with you, Pam. And typically when issues arise during a home birth that would result in a transfer to the hospital, the Midwives are trained to know well in advance before an “emergency” would occur. But home birth is not for everyone. The heart behind women who choose home birth is to be able to have a natural, enjoyable experience, rather than the invasive experience with unnecessary interventions they are getting in the hospitals lately. It’s not that we aren’t thankful for modern medicine and doctors and everything they are trained for… because I am SO thankful they are able to save lives – but for a healthy, low-risk mama – a home birth is a very safe option.

  6. I find it ironic that people doubting the safety of home birth have ZERO facts or sources to back their uneducated comments. What you “feel” or what you’ve been “told” or “heard” does not constitute it being fact. The writer clearly cited sources for her facts and statistics, and did not simply just “glorify” her experience. Please take some time to educate yourself. If I could guess, I would say 9/10 people just go along with what the hospitals/doctors/nurses tell them, rather than take time to research for themselves. The US has the highest maternal and neonatal death rate among developed countries. Take a look: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150506/NEWS/150509941

    Sorry, but with only 1.36% of home birth’s happening in the US, those statistics above aren’t occurring as a result of “unlicensed” or “untrained” midwives during a home birth, bro.

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