How Safe Is Home Birth?

Jun 26 2012 @ 2:21pm

My sister, me and my brother were all conceived and born in the same actual bed – moved around to three different locations. We had a midwife; and some long-burnished anecdotes. I was called David for about a week or so. When I emerged rather swiftly from my poor mother, I am told the nurse said, "Well, he hasn't got blue booties on, but it's definitely a boy." The stories we were told have an innocent quality to them, looking back. Now, apparently, home-birth is making a comeback. Michelle Goldberg removes some of the romance:

For many parents, home birth is a transcendent experience, and they’re profoundly grateful to have been able to have their babies on their own terms. Yet as the number of such births grows, so does the number of tragedies—and those stories tend to be left out of soft-focus lifestyle features. Now, a small but growing number of people whose home deliveries have gone horribly awry have started speaking out, some of them on a blog, Hurt by Homebirth, set up by former Harvard Medical School Instructor Amy Tuteur.

Some numbers:

[Tuteur] points to figures from Colorado, one of the few states that mandates the collection of data from licensed home birth midwives. In 2009, midwives performed 637 deliveries, and transferred another 160 patients to the hospital either before or during labor. Altogether, the midwives’ patients suffered 9 perinatal deaths, almost double the perinatal mortality rate for the entire state, including high-risk and premature deliveries. Three of the nine babies died during labor, which is extremely rare in hospital births.

(Video: Trailer for The Business of Being Born, a 2008 documentary that advocates home birth. Watch the whole film for free here.)