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Babies Born Outside of a Hospital have a Higher Risk of Death, Study Finds

Update Date: Dec 31, 2015 09:36 AM EST

Since more American women are choosing to give birth outside of a hospital setting, a new study set out to examine the risks involved.

"According to the Canadian study, when out-of-hospital births are integrated into the healthcare system and there are regulations in place for how to select women for out-of-hospital births, I think it can be a safe option," lead researcher Jonathan Snowden at Oregon Health and Science University, said reported by Reuters. "In our Oregon study we found that, absent a lot of these systems, there were small but slightly increased risks of neonatal mortality in the out-of-hospital setting."

For this study, the researchers looked at data on almost 80,000 pregnancies in Oregon from 2012 to 2013, where out-of-hospital births are more common in comparison to other parts of the country. A total of 75,923 births occurred in a hospital and 3,203 happened outside of the hospital with nearly 2,000 at home. 601 women who had planned an out-of-hospital birth were transported to hospitals.

The team found that babies who were born outside of a hospital were 2.4 times more likely to die during birth or within one month after birth. The death rate was 3.9 per 1,000 for out-of-hospital births and 1.8 per 1,000 in-hospital births.

The team also found that babies born outside of a hospital were more likely to suffer from neonatal seizures and more likely to need ventilators. Mothers who gave birth outside of the hospital had a higher risk of needing blood transfusions.

Despite the slight increase in risk of death, the researchers did find a few benefits. Out-of-hospital births were tied to a lower rate of cesarean sections (5.3 percent). The rate of C-sections in hospital births was 24.7. Out-of-hospital births also did not require as many interventions to speed up labor and mothers generally ended up with fewer lacerations.

The researchers had adjusted for factors that could have affected delivery and the health of the newborn. These factors included the women's race and age, and health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Out-of-hospital births are still very uncommon in the U.S. The National Center for Health Statistics reported that in 2014, 1.5 percent of births occurred outside of a hospital.

The study's findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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