Is Home Birth Safe?

Updated: Feb 24

“You’re having him at home? What, really, wow! You’re brave." 

“Oh ha-ha, you’ll change your mind when labour starts, you think you can now but just you wait and see!”

“What if it gets stuck? I’d definitely hedge my bets and go to hospital”

“Hypnobirthing?? What the hell’s that! Just trust me Jo, I know, I’ve been there. You’ll be taking every drug you can get! It’ll all be worth it in the end though.” 

It can’t be safe at home can it? Certainly not for first time mums. If it were safe, then why do most women go to hospital?

These were just some of the things said to me back in 2014 when I had a phobia of the medicalisation of childbirth, was expecting my first child and preparing to homebirth.

The final statement raises a lot of questions though.  Why DO most women choose to go to hospital? Now, before you write me off as a home birthing hippy who wants to convince every woman to do what I did, hear me out.

Ultimately, I think that women should give birth where they want and where they will feel safest. For many women that is hospital. Feeling safe in labour plays a major part in the production and flow of hormones like oxytocin which enable the smooth progression of labour.

But, that said, if your choice of going to hospital is based on common assumptions, and because it’s what ‘most people do’ rather than an informed choice, there are other options.

The Lancet (2019) published findings from a study of 500,000 low-risk women. It found that;

“The risk of perinatal or neonatal mortality was not different when birth was intended at home or in hospital.”

Their conclusion of ‘no different mortality rate’ included the babies born to low risk first time mums too. 

So, brilliant right? There’s no difference between homes, hospitals or birth centres. If our babies are equally safe everywhere, it doesn’t matter where we choose to go or stay.

Or does it? What about us? Of course, a healthy baby matters. It goes without saying. But women matter too.

The Lancet (2020) published further findings and reported that;

“Among low-risk women, those intending to birth at home experienced fewer birth interventions and untoward maternal outcomes. These findings along with earlier work reporting neonatal outcomes inform families, health care providers and policy makers around the safety of intended home births.”

Did you know about this? Have you been properly informed about the SAFETY of homebirths? Were or have you been informed during your antenatal care that you are more likely to experience medical and non-medical interventions and untoward maternal outcomes birthing outside of a home environment? 

Reasons why the chance of interventions increase are deep rooted and widespread. If you choose to birth in hospital but you also want to avoid or reduce the chance of intervention there is action you can take and ways you can prepare yourself in advance. Positive births absolutely do happen in all birth settings, but prior information and preparation are key wherever you are.

Currently only around 2% of women birth at home. I hope the latest evidence by The Lancet helps to increase transparency and drive change in the provision of our maternity care and services.

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