The Birthplace Study clearly showed that planning to give birth at home or in a midwife led unit was safer for women, and, in almost all cases, their babies, than hospital. Far more women had the following poor outcomes or interventions when they planned to birth in hospital compared to birthing at home or in a midwife led unit:
- a serious bleed after birth
- birth assisted by forceps
- caesarean birth
- or had other interventions such as epidurals
These outcomes all affect the baby as well as the mother or birthing parent, so all of the babies who were born in hospital were adversely affected by these outcomes as well as their mothers.
For mothers giving birth for the first time, there was a very tiny increase in some poor outcomes for their baby (but no increase in the deaths of those babies) – from about 5 in 1000 to 9 in 1000. These poor outcomes included shoulder injuries and meconium aspiration. We don’t know why this might be. Other studies didn’t show this increase in these poor outcomes. Interestingly, this was only seen in the babies who were planned to be born at home – the midwife led units had similar, or slightly better outcomes to the hospital.
The conclusion is that planning to give birth at home has significant safety benefits for all birthing women and people and their babies, but for those who are birthing for the first time there’s a tiny increased risk of some specific poor outcomes for their babies according to The Birthplace Study – which hasn’t been seen in other studies.