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Home Birth: Know the Risks

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

As you progress in your pregnancy, you may be hearing stories from other women regarding their birth experience. Oftentimes, pregnant mamas are the recipients of unsolicited “advice” and recommendations. One topic that may have come up is home birth. We will be discussing home birth and the risks involved with this decision.

What Is a Home Birth?

Just as the name states, a home birth is when a women chooses to deliver at home without medical interventions, such as medications or fetal heart rate monitoring.

Historically, woman gave birth in the home with the assistance of family or a midwife. It was not until the late 1700s that doctors began assisting with deliveries. By the early 1900s, hospital births became more popular.

How Common Is Home Birth?

In the United States, 1.26% of births were home births in 2020. Across the United Kingdom, approximately 2% of births are home births. In Australia, the numbers are lower, with 0.5% of births in the home setting.

Why Do Women Choose Home Births?

Some women who elect to have home births believe that the home environment is more comfortable than a hospital. Other women desire to have control over possible medical interventions used during delivery. Some families choose home births due to cost savings, and others make the decision after a traumatic hospital-based birth in a prior pregnancy.

What Are the Risks of Home Birth?

According to the Mayo Clinic, home births are associated with a higher risk of infant death, seizures and nervous system disorders than planned hospital births. Specifically, the rate of infant mortality is at least twice as high as hospital births. Due to the increased risks associated with home births, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued a formal statement noting that hospitals are the safest setting for birth.

Takeaway Message:

While you may be hearing about home births as a trending topic, it is important that you are aware of the increased risks associated with home births. Although many women have a safe delivery in the home setting, there is an increased risk of seizures and infant death. It is important to discuss your concerns with your provider prior to making a birth plan. For women who desire a home birth due to a fear of hospitals, arranging a visit to the maternity ward and meeting the nurses may help alleviate your concerns.

Have you have a home birth? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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