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Planned home births are safe, a study proves

Babies like to be wrapped tightly.
Babies like to be wrapped tightly.
Elena Rumiantseva

A study published in Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health on January 30, 2014 concluded that women who were planning to deliver a baby at home did not face any additional risks than those who delivered at a hospital. The main difference between this and countless other studies on the contentious subject of non-hospital births is that the authors looked at those births that not only occurred but were planned to occur at home. Scientists analyzed the Midwives Alliance of North American Statistics Project (MANA Stats) 2.0 data registry, according to intended and actual place of birth.

Results were surprising to critics of home births. Among 16,924 women who planned them at the onset of labor, 89.1% indeed delivered at home. Only 4.5% of the total number of women required oxytocin augmentation (used to make contractions stronger and closer together) or epidural analgesia. Eighty-seven percent of 1054 women who previously had a C-section were successful at giving vaginal birth. Transfers of mothers and newborns to the hospital were infrequent, and low Apgar scores occurred in 1.5% of babies. What’s more, 86% of them were exclusively breastfed at six weeks of age.

There is some exciting news for us Washingtonians. In the Pacific region of the U.S., which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, there was the largest number of planned home births than in any other five regions of the country: 5364, which is 31.8% of all births. The lowest number was in New England, with only 873, 5.2% of all births. So, we have something to celebrate, being the best place to have a birth at home. Our state has the toughest requirements in the nation for those who aspire to become midwives. Licensed midwives (LMs) need to complete three years in a state-approved midwifery education program, which includes participation in 100+ deliveries and verification of clinical skills and didactic course work, according to Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNMs) are educated in the two disciplines of nursing and midwifery, certified by the America College of Nurse-Midwives and the State of Washington.

Insurance policies, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, now cover any method of birthing, so there should be no problem with paying for a midwife’s services (on a side note, which are much cheaper than OB/GYNs). Even though home birth still has many skeptics, it is now a viable way to deliver for low-risk women. A home birth was described as “unique” and “special” with an immediate intimate connection established between a mother and her newborn.