2006 Vedam S. (2006). Planned home birth: Safe for selected women. Journal Watch Women’s Health, 11(3), 20-21.
Women choose home birth for various reasons. Some feel more empowered during home birth; others prefer family involvement or the comfort, convenience, and privacy of the home; and still others cite cultural reasons. In June 2005, a large prospective study on planned home births in North America was published.1 The investigators concluded that for low-risk women, perinatal outcomes from planned home births are similar to those reported for hospital births. This conclusion contrasted greatly with previous findings from a large retrospective study on home births in Washington State.2 Published in 2002, that study prompted the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to issue a press release entitled “Home Births Double Risk of Newborn Death,” to which the Midwives Association of Washington State responded: “Childbearing women and health policy makers should be made aware that the study contains numerous flaws and limitations. . . . This study alone should not be used to make decisions that could restrict women’s choice of birthplace or access to birth attendants with expertise in home birth.”
Who is right? What is the quality of the evidence on home birth safety? Is it possible to determine the safety of various birth sites? If so, under which conditions is home birth safe?