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Home Births Tied to More Infant Deaths

Update Date: Feb 04, 2014 01:58 PM EST

Even though home births are still quite uncommon, more and more pregnant women are turning to this option. Home births have been considered to be generally safe for women with a healthy and normal pregnancy. However, regardless of good health, complications could still arise and addressing these complications within a home setting could be the difference between life and death. According to a new study, home births could be tied to an increased rate of infant deaths.

"Home birth is more dangerous," said lead author Dr. Amos Grunebaum, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Cornell University's Weill Cornell Medical College. "There's insufficient equipment and personnel available [in the home] to address complications."

In this study, Grunebaum and colleagues examined data collected by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data had information on around 14 million births and deaths. The researchers calculated that the absolute risk of infant death during birth or within 28 days post birth was 3.2 per 10,000 if the midwife helped deliver the baby in a hospital setting. When the midwife delivered the infant in a home setting, the rate increased to 12.6 infant deaths per 10,000 births. The researchers found that if the infant was the mother's first child, the rate increased to 21.9 deaths per 10,000 when the birth was done at home.

"Women who are thinking about having home birth should know that if they deliver in the hospital with a midwife, it reduces infant death by 75 percent -- and by 85 percent if the woman is having her first baby," Grunebaum said according to WebMD. "These are babies who could be saved if they were delivered in a hospital. This isn't about midwives; it's about birth settings."

The CDC reported that from 2004 to 2009, the percentage of women electing for a home birth increased 29 percent. If this trend continues to increase, the researchers estimated that by 2016, 32 additional infant deaths could occur. Health care professionals might need to work harder in educating women about the risks involved.

The findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in New Orleans, LA on Friday.

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