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The Safety of Home Births

In the most recent issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, an article was published suggesting that home births that encountered problems were less safe than hospital births. This was reported in recent articles in both The Telegraph and The Guardian. This is an important finding, not least because it refutes the previous research that concluded that planned home births were at least as safe as hospital births for low-risk pregnancies. It is essential hat we take heed of research such as this, and do not simply refute it because it is not smething hat we want to hear. We also need to be careful not to be reactionary and end up throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Studies like these do, and should prompt healthy debate and further research. And it is essential that we dig beneath the headlines ( note how different they were depending on the newspaper) and work out what the possible reasons for such findings might be. If the conclusion of the research was that home births by their very nature were inherently more risky, then how do we account for the birth outcome statistics in Holland- which are some of the best in the Western world- and thier unusually high home birth rate at around 30%. Equally how does Ina May Gaskin, famed for her birth practice on The Farm in Tennessee manages to have a c-section rate of only 1.4% and a transfer rate of only 13% inlcuding postpartem transfer, when her births are always at home or at her home-from-home centre. ( There is an interesting article on home birth safety on their website)

Instead of simply labelling home birth as dangerous, it is essential that we establish why, if the data is correct, it might be dangerous in some situations and not in others. And based on this, we need to make provisions for the minority who might still choose to birth at home, to ensure that being at home is made as safe as it can be. In scenarios such as these, scare-mogering headlines are not at all useful. What we need is to establish what the science is really telling us, and act accordingly.

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