Thursday, February 25, 2010

A challenge to the AMA

To review our previous post on the sensationalist misrepresentation of home birth statistics by the Medical Journal of Australia, click here.

The following article has been published in the British Medical Journal, 24 February 2010, doi:10.1136/bmj.c826
Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c826

Medicine and the Media
Science, politics, and headlines in the home birth war
Melissa Sweet, journalist, Sydney

Why did the media report new research as showing that outcomes of home births are much worse than those for hospital delivery? Melissa Sweet reports

Last month the Medical Journal of Australia published a study on outcomes of home birth that generated many media stories sounding the alarm about the safety of such births.1
Many stories focused on the study’s findings that babies were seven times more likely to die during labour in a planned home birth and in particular were 27 times more likely to die from asphyxiation. Some also did mention the finding that there was no significant difference in the overall perinatal mortality rate between planned home births and those planned for hospital delivery.

These were also all findings highlighted in the media release accompanying the journal, which made no mention of uncertainty surrounding the relative risk estimates. The confidence interval for both was wide: 1.53 to 35.87 for intrapartum deaths and 8.02 to 88.83 for deaths from intrapartum asphyxia.

Nor did the press release mention the numbers of deaths involved or the absolute risks. ...
[Unfortunately the remainder of this article is available only to subscribers]

MS holds an honorary position at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health and moderates a health blog, Croakey, which has covered the home birth story.

1. Kennare RM, Keirse MJNC, Tucker GR, Chan AC. Planned home and hospital births in South Australia, 1991-2006: differences in outcomes. Med J Aust 2010;192:76-80.
2. Australian Medical Association. Planned home births linked to a higher risk of perinatal deaths in childbirth.
3. Pesce AF. Planned home birth in Australia: politics or science? Med J Aust 2010;192:60-1.
4. Woloshin S, Schwartz LM, Kramer BS. Promoting healthy skepticism in the news: helping journalists get it right. J Natl Cancer Inst 2009;101:1596-9.


Pip B. said...

Joy Perhaps a student midwife reader would search for this article for us and have access as it was a very interesting little snippet :)

Joy Johnston said...

Pippa I have it as a .pdf file, which I can send by email. Contact me at