In Australia 3,400 home births were analyzed by the National Perinatal Statistics Unit. Some of the women studied were considered high risk because they were primigravidas (this was their first birth), were carrying twins, the baby was breech, they were over 35, or they had previous cesarean sections. The perinatal mortality rate was 5.9 per 1,000. The percentage of mothers who were transported to the hospital was 8.6. The cesarean section rate was 2.2 percent, 3.1 percent had forceps.
In Britain perinatal mortality rates per 1,000 births were 27.8 for hospital deliveries and 4.3 for home deliveries. Perinatal mortality rates in the Netherlands in 1986 reveal that out of 119,037 births in hospitals there were 1,653 deaths (13.9 per 1,000). Out of 66,536 home births there were 149 deaths (2.2 per 1,000). Further analysis in the same study showed that the perinatal mortality rate per 1,000 births when attended by a obstetrician in the hospital was 18.9, when attended by a midwife in the hospital was 2.1, and when attended by a midwife at home was 1.0.
In the Netherlands the infant mortality rate has been significantly lower than in the United States for over 20 years. 70 % of all births in the Netherlands are attended by midwives, and 40% of all births occur at home. (GBCp.52)
One of the largest studies done comparing home birth and hospital birth was done by the United States Center for Disease Control. It studied 242,000 hospital births and 2,200 out-of-hospital births in North Carolina between 1974 and 1976. The infant mortality rate in hospitals was 12 per 1,000 live births compared to 4 per 1,000 for planned, attended home births.
Another study was also conducted in 1976 at Stanford University by Dr. Lewis Mehl and a group of researchers. They studied 2,092 births, half of which were planned home births and the other half were planned hospital births. Of all these births there was only one infant death which occurred at the hospital. The researchers also studied the differences between interventions and complications in these births. They found that 75% of all the hospitalized mothers received some form of medications, where as only 5% of the home birth mothers were medicated. In the hospital births there were three times as many cesarean sections, the infants had more birth injuries, infections, and fetal distress. There were also ten times more episiotomies, and twice as many severe perineal lacerations.
The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee is an independent home birth practice. Between 1970 -1979 they recorded statistics on 1,000 births. There were 15 cesarean sections (1.5%), 3 forceps deliveries (.3%), 7 induced deliveries (.7%). Of the babies delivered on the Farm there were 8 perinatal deaths (3 of which were lethal congenital defects). The statistics for perinatal mortality faired better than the State of Tennessee's whose infant mortality in 1977 was 26 per 1000. There were 37 deliveries that the midwives considered high risk and were delivered at the hospital. The perinatal mortality rate including these deliveries was 15 per 1000. Only 1.6% of the women had anesthesia, and only 0.1% had continuous fetal monitoring. In 1994 an update showed similar statistics on the 1,917 births that were managed there.
World Infant Mortality for 1989 (Infant deaths per 1000)
1. Japan 4.9 13. West Germany 8.3
2. Sweden 5.7 14. Austria 8.3
3. Finland 5.8 15. Denmark 8.4
4. Switzerland 6.8 16. East Germany 8.7
5. Taiwan 6.9 17. Australia 8.8
6. Ireland 7.4 18. Spain 8.8
7. Singapore 7.4 19. United Kingdom 9.1
8. France 7.6 20. Belgium 9.7
9. Netherlands 7.7 21. USA 9.9
10. Hong Kong 7.7 22. New Zealand 10.0
11. Norway 7.8 23. Italy 10.1
12. Canada 7.9 24. Israel 10.7
Countries with the highest rate of births attended by midwives have the best maternal and perinatal mortality statistics. In Japan for every 250 midwives there is 1 obstetrician. There are 34,000 trained midwives in the Japanese Midwives Association. The Netherlands and Scandinavian countries also routinely use midwives.
In some states the statistics for unattended home births are lumped together with those births attended by a skilled midwife. These numbers will give a false impression that homebirth is not safe. Unattended homebirth statistics are very poor and cannot be combined with those that are planned and attended by a skilled professional.
No studies have ever shown that hospitalization or any particular medical treatment given in the hospital improves the statistical outcome for normal pregnant women. Many people ask "Is home birth safe?" The question should instead be "Is hospital birth safe?" We should remember that hospital birth is only a small spot on the long time line of the history of childbearing.
published in the British Medical Journal
in November 2011 suggests that there’s little difference in complications among the babies of women with low-risk pregnancies who delivered in hospitals vs. those who gave birth at home with a midwife.
Here are some additional studies regarding homebirth:British Medical Jounal Study
of North American WomenDutch Home Birth StudySafety of Homebirth Literature
(multiple sources)University of Copenhagen
(Denmark) Canadian StudyUniversity of British ColumbiaJournal of Nurse MidwiferyMothering.com Resources