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Is Home Birth Safe?

By Jennifer Green

So, you’re pregnant and looking into home birth, but you’re not sure. Is it safe? What if something goes wrong? In years past, data on home birth was derived from birth certificate data. Some of the births were attended by midwives, but many of them had no trained provider in attendance. The numbers included women who delivered at home by accident or in their car on the way to the hospital. So the birth certificate statistics were not a good measure for women seeking care at home with a trained midwife.

Thankfully, the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) began a statistics project, MANA Stats, to collect data from midwife-attended home births. Between 2004 and 2009, they gathered data on close to 17,000 women planning on birthing at home and performed statistical analysis to judge the safety of planned homebirth.

Is It Safe?

The results of that first MANA Stats study found that home birth is safe for low-risk women. Low risk means that you are in good health, expecting one baby and are committed to taking good care of yourself during your pregnancy. Age in and of itself is not a risk factor. You are not high risk because you had a cesarean birth last time. A midwife would be happy to sit down with you and discuss your options for birth and whether you are a good candidate for home birth. Or visit The Mama Advocate for a list of risk factors that could rule out this option.

Benefits of Home Birth

In addition to showing that home birth is safe, the MANA study showed that women who birth with a midwife at home are at a much lower risk of unnecessary interventions. In addition, families that birth at home typically recover faster physically and feel more mentally prepared for parenthood because of their choice. Babies are nearly always breastfeeding at the conclusion of postpartum care at six weeks. Mamas report feeling more “themselves” than they did with their hospital births. The Citizens for Midwifery published a good paper explaining more about the conclusions of the MANA Stats study.

A few statistics to highlight: 87% of home births after cesarean (HBAC) are successful. Cesarean rate at home was 5.2% compared with around 30% for most of the United States. And the impact of midwife care on breastfeeding means almost 98% of mamas are still breastfeeding at six weeks. In addition, midwives almost always delay cord clamping and they work to help their clients avoid tearing during delivery.  The rest of the highlights can be seen here, on the MANA Study Fact Sheet.

What If Something Goes Wrong?

An experienced midwife will be prepared in advance for complications. Though many providers that work in a hospital worry that things can decline very quickly during a birth, that is very rare in natural, physiological births. Midwives are the experts of normal birth; they are skilled at curving minor complications back onto the road to natural birth. They are quick to respond to the mother’s needs to help avoid complications.

Midwives in Colorado are trained in neonatal resuscitation and bring all the equipment necessary to help a baby who needs it. We also carry oxygen, anti-hemorrhagic pharmaceuticals to treat hemorrhage, suture equipment to stitch up tears, and all the other medical equipment and supplies needed for childbirth. When, occasionally, we do need to take mamas into the hospital, we accompany them and stay until a few hours after the baby is born, just like at home. Thankfully, going to the hospital is rarely because of an emergency. Most often, it is because of a labor that is not progressing and mama is getting tired. The amazing thing about birth is that complications are rare if we trust that the mama’s body and baby will progress on their timeline in their way.

For more great info on the safety of home birth, I highly recommend this article by Mama Natural!