Could Giving Birth at Home be Safer than Hospital?

Home births are on the rise in the UK, and now account for around 2.5% of all births. This is, however, still much lower than in the Netherlands, where family wellness statistics show that around 20% of babies are born at home.


Supporters of home birth claim that, as long as the home birth is planned and attended by medical professionals, giving birth at home is actually less risky than giving birth in hospital, especially for those who are giving birth for the second time.


A large study was conducted in Holland, which found that severe complications (where the wellness and wellbeing of mother and baby was dangerously compromised) occurred in around one in 1,000 home births and 2.3 per 1,000 hospital births. This is thought to be strong evidence that giving birth at home is actually safer than giving birth in the hospital.


Leading doctors in the UK, however, warn that the system for giving birth in the Netherlands is entirely different to what is in place in the UK, and that these statistics do not directly translate for UK home births.


They also warn that the statistics may be fatally skewed by the fact that only women who are low risk in the first place are allowed to give birth at home, meaning that cases of complications in hospital births are inevitably going to be higher, as that is where women who are higher risk give birth. They also warn that although the complications are less frequent for home births, the repercussions of such complications (such as haemorrhage) are more severe in home birth cases, as immediate medical attention is not available without an ambulance ride.


Although statistics from the Netherlands look encouraging for those who are pro home birth, even the researchers themselves warn that having good home birth figures relies strongly on having a very good selection system in place, to make sure that high risk women do not birth at home, have good transport in place for cases of emergency, and to have plenty of well qualified and highly trained midwives, something that the UK fails to deliver.

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