Alice's blog...

The risk of homebirth is 'small'...

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Much in the news today about recent British Medical Journal published research on homebirth safety for mothers.

The study sample included 150,000 low-risk women who gave birth in the Netherlands between 2004-2006.

For women expecting their first babies, their risk of being admitted to intensive care or needing a large blood transfusion was pretty similar for planned homebirths vs planned hospital births:

2.3 per 1000 vs 3.1 per 1000 (respective safety 99.77% vs 99.69%)

For women who had given birth before, their risk of postpartum haemorrhage was significantly less following planned homebirths vs planned hospital births:

19.6 per 1000 vs 37.6 per 1000 (respective safety 98.04% vs 96.24%)

Ank de Jonge, midwife and senior researcher on the study said:

"This comes from a good risk selection system, good transport in place and well-trained midwives."

In response, Dr Tony Falconer, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said:

"The rate of home birth in the UK is low (2.4%) in comparison to the Netherlands (20%) where the proximity to specialist services with short transfer times is the norm.

"The same advantages are not always available across the UK, so the safety of home birth has to be considered in the context of the availability of local services."

In contrast, Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives welcomed the research, saying that the choice of homebirth should be promoted and available to all low-risk women, but often low staffing levels mean many women who wanted a homebirth are denied that right.

The Birthplace in England study published 2011 also found benefits of homebirth for mothers, namely a reduced 10% risk of having medical interventions for those who planned a homebirth, compared to a 40% risk of such for those who planned a hospital birth.

I've certainly known of families who have, when told on the phone that "there are no midwives available for your homebirth" have insisted upon midwives attending, for personal preference and also valid safety reasons, e.g.

"I will not be putting myself and my baby at increased risk of giving birth in hospital"

- and, sure enough, midwives are 'found' somehow... But not everyone knows that they can decline transfer or would feel comfortable doing so.

But this research is good news :)