A new study from researchers at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting, in New Orleans, found a growing rate of newborn deaths associated with home births.
That's disturbing because the practice is becoming more popular in the U.S. In 2012, the CDC reported that after declining from 1990 to 2004, the rate of home births has increased by almost 30% from 2004 to 2009 (the latest years for which numbers are available).
Using CDC data collected from 14 million infant births and deaths, the research team learned that the rate of newborn deaths was greater for home births delivered by midwives (12.6/10,000 births) compared to births delivered by midwives in a hospital (3.2/10,000 births). The death rates were even greater for first-time mothers having a midwife delivery at home (21.9/10,000 births). Births in a hospital–even if delivered by a midwife, were still safer than home deliveries.
Taken together, there were about 18 to 19 additional newborn deaths from midwife home deliveries compared to midwife hospital deliveries. If home births by midwives continue to increase at the current rate, the researchers suspect that newborn mortality could almost double from 2009 to 2016.
Based on these findings, the scientists say that expectant parents should be aware of the risks of home births, and doctors should strongly encourage women who want to use midwives to deliver at a hospital. Many families choose home births because they believe that having their baby at home is more comfortable for both mom and baby; to accommodate them, hospitals could make their birthing experiences more welcoming and relaxing for mothers.
Image: Woman laboring at a hospital, via Shutterstock