Home Births Up By 30 Percent, But Are They Safe?

02/06/2012

Cute baby imageThe CDC reported that home births were up by 30 percent between 2004 and 2009, though the number of home births is still really small compared to hospital births. Today they account for 1 percent of deliveries or 1 out of every 90 babies born in the U.S. 

Women with other children, white women, and women that are 35 and older were the most likely to choose home births. 

“A lot of women like the idea of home birth because they want a lower-intervention birth. A lot of women are worried about c-section rates and other types of intervention that happen once you go to the hospital,” said Marion MacDorman of the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, which was reported on Natural News

Louisiana and the District of Columbia mothers were the least likely to choose home births while moms from Montana were the most likely. One study found that home births resulted in less medical intervention, fewer epidurals and episiotomics, and fewer infections but the overall risk of infant death went up by three percent. 

Home births should only be considered if you’re a low risk pregnancy, you want to avoid intervention, and you want to be surrounded by family and friends. They should be avoided if you’re diabetic, have chronic high blood pressure, and your partner doesn’t support your decision. It’s also a much lower cost option, often 60 percent less expensive than a hospital birth, says American Pregnancy.

One UK study found that 40 percent of first time moms and 10 percent of those that have previously given birth end up being transferred to the hospital for reasons that included exhaustion, premature rupture of membranes, high blood pressure, fetal distress, no progress, cord prolapse, and hemorrhage.

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Photo: Comstock/Thinkstock/Getty Images

The Ins and Outs of Home Birthing

Home birthers usually set up a medical team which includes a midwife, obstetrician, and a doula, as well as a pediatrician to see within 24 hours of the birth. 

Midwives are healthcare professionals that specialize in low risk pregnancy, child birth, and postpartum care. They’re taught how to intervene in certain situations including breech babies, twin births, and posterior positioning. The term midwife actually goes all the way back to the Old Testament where it’s mentioned in Exodus, Chapter 1.

Nurse-midwives are a combination of a nurse and a midwife. Depending on the state, they are normally licensed as advanced nurse practitioners and midwives. They usually have a master’s degree in nursing, public health, or midwifery. They work in hospitals, medical clinics, private offices, birthing centers, and homes. They can prescribe medications in all 50 states, according to the American College of Nurse-MidWivesDoulas, on the other hand, provide non-medical support before, during, and after the pregnancy. Labor doulas use tools like massage, aromatherapy, visualization, and nurturing to calm mothers during birthing. 

Birthing Centers

Birthing centers are the midpoint between a hospital birth and a home birth. Again, they work best on low risk pregnancies. They provide moms with a relaxing place to give birth that’s equipped with nurse-midwives, midwives, nurses, and obstetricians. They can be free standing or inside a hospital.

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Photo: Science PR/Getty Images

Birthing centers are only a good fit for low risk pregnancies because they have no electronic fetal monitoring except doppler ultra sound. They provide no pain relief drugs except for localized anesthesia for suture tears and they don’t allow for operative pregnancies, according to American Pregnancy

For low risk pregnancies, home births and birthing centers seem to be a viable option, especially with the addition of nurse-midwives. But no matter what you choose, knowing your options, including the benefits and risks, is always the best birthing step forward.

Photo at top: Thinkstock

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More on Birthing
Planning a Home Birth
Births Beyond Belief
Birth Day: Natural Childbirth



Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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