Friday, April 17, 2009

Largest study in the world confirms home birth is safe

This statement is from the Australian College of Midwives and was published in Australian Healthcare News, Thursday, 16 April 2009.

The opinion that hospital birth is safest for all women and babies has finally been overturned with the publication of the world’s largest study of planned, midwife attended home births.

The study, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (April 15th 2009), included over half a million, low risk, planned home and hospital births in the Netherlands over seven years and compared numbers of babies dying and being harmed during the births. The Netherlands currently has the highest home birth rate in the western world (30%) and a caesarean section rate that is more than half Australia’s (14% vs 31%).

Over three hundred thousand women had planned homebirths attended by midwives in this study. No significant differences were found in numbers of babies dying during labour, during the first 24 hours after labour or up to seven days after birth between planned low risk birth at home, attended by a trained midwife and those who planned to give birth in hospital. There were also no differences in numbers of babies being admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit following the birth. Previous studies have been limited by small sample numbers of births and this study has now achieved adequate numbers to show differences very rare events.

We have known for many years mothers have lower intervention rates and higher satisfaction rates when giving birth at home, but there has remained a cloud over the impact on babies’ outcomes. This cloud has now been lifted. This study adds to others, which established planned home birth attended by professional midwives was safe for low risk women. It confirms that homebirth services properly networked into mainstream care are safe for babies.

The Australian College of Midwives calls on the Government to reconsider its silence over homebirth and work with health professionals to implement safe, supportive systems of care that will facilitate women’s choice of birthplace. Over 400 submissions to the National Maternity Review from consumers, the majority requesting greater access to homebirth cannot be ignored any longer.

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