Earlier this week, Dr. Patricia Janssen's study on home birth vs. hospital births in the care of midwives and physicians was released. The study confirms my own experience, and provides a useful starting point for anyone considering their options for home vs. hospital birth.
The study looked at women choosing to have a home birth with a midwife, women using the same midwives for a hospital birth, and another group of women having a hospital birth with a physician. As the study notes:
Women planning birth at home experienced reduced risk for all obstetric interventions measured, and similar or reduced risk for adverse maternal outcomes
Women in the planned home-birth group were much less likely than those who gave birth in hospital to have obstetric interventions including:
- 0.32 times less likely to receive electronic fetal monitoring.
- 0.41 times less likely to have an assisted vaginal delivery.
- 0.41 times less likely to suffer third or fourth degree perineal tears.
- 0.62 times less likely to have postpartum hemorrhage.
Newborns who were born at home were also 0.23 times less likely to require resuscitation or oxygen therapy after 24 hours compared with those who were born in hospital with a midwife.
Infants born at home were also 0.45 times less likely to have aspirate meconium
In addition, the rate of death was the same, or somewhat lower:
The rate of deaths per 1,000 births in the first month of life was 0.35 for the planned home births, 0.57 for the hospital births with a midwife, and 0.64 with a physician
So you should have a home birth, right? That's not what this says, nor what I want to say. The thing I want to point out in this is that the data indicates that home birth is as safe as a hospital birth. And if we assume safe birth, (which we never can but) given safe births, then I would argue that there is even more benefit to having a home birth in terms of quality of care, reduced risk of infection for the mother and baby, improved chance of getting breast feeding started properly, etc. But that's not what I want to focus on now.
Both of our daughters were delivered by a midwife and without drugs or other interventions (my wife is a superhero). Our first, because she was 5 weeks premature, was born in hospital, and then released the next day with no complications. Our second was born at home; literally born in our bed.
I write this to draw attention to the study, and to add my own experience so that other dads who are struggling with a wife who wants to do this will know that it is a safe and valid option. This doesn't make the decision for you. I don't say that you should do it, that it's the only way to do it, etc. It's what we did, and it was the right decision for us. Whatever you choose to do, this remains an option.