Newborn Mortality Rate Significantly Higher in Home Births – Are Home Births Worth the Risk?

This post was authored by Jon Stefanuca and posted to The Eye Opener on July 16th, 2010.

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A recent study published by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology suggests that there is a significant increase in the newborn mortality rate in cases of planned home births when compared to hospital deliveries. The study conducted by Joseph R. Wax. M.D. included data from 342,056 planned home births and 207,511 planned hospital deliveries. The data was collected from a number of industrialized Western nations. Researchers found that:

Although rare, newborn deaths occurred in 0.2% of the total planned home births included in the analysis, compared with 0.09% of the total planned hospital births. Among infants born without any birth defects, the rates were 0.15% vs. 0.04%, respectively.

These findings suggest that, in cases of home birth, the newborn mortality rate was almost twice as high when compared to hospital deliveries and almost tripled in cases involving newborns with congenital abnormalities. One explanation for these findings is that newborns have less medical intervention, which can result in respiratory distress and failed resuscitation.

This data is particularly surprising considering that most women, who participated in home births, had fewer overall obstetrical risk factors (e.g., obesity, previous pregnancy/delivery complications, c- sections). Additionally, the study also suggests that while the newborn mortality rate increased in cases of home births, the mothers were less likely to develop a number of complications, including infections, perineal/vaginal lacerations, bleeding, and retained placentas.

For many women, the decision to proceed with a home birth vs. a hospital delivery is not an easy one. It is usually motivated by a number of factors, such as preconceived notions about medical care, family history, and opinions regarding c-sections, among many other things. If you are expecting, whatever you do, make an educated decision about your delivery.

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