Five Facts About Home Birth

The rates of home birth in Canada are on the rise, although they still add up to only a small percentage compared to those who give birth in hospital


Here are some things you should know if you are considering an at-home birth.


1. Home birth is safe. Research shows that a planned home birth with trained attendants and a low-risk mother and baby is somewhat safer for the mother and equally safe for the baby as a hospital birth. (There has been at least one study suggesting a higher risk for babies in home births, but the study’s conclusions remain controversial.)


2. Home birth involves fewer interventions. Research shows that women planning home births are less likely to have C-sections (3.7% versus 19%), for example, when compared to a similar low-risk group planning a hospital birth; their rate of episiotomy and vacuum extraction is also dramatically lower. The risk of either mother or baby becoming ill with an infection is also much higher in hospital.


3. Home birth seems to support breastfeedng. One meta-analysis found that 96% of home birth mothers were still breastfeeding at six weeks. Of course, it may be that women who choose home birth are also more likely to choose breastfeeding, but many of the interventions that happen more commonly during hospital births are known to have a negative effect on breastfeeding. The lower rate of interventions and the post-partum support given by midwives (who usually attend home births) may be factors in the higher levels of breastfeeding.


4. The availability and costs of home birth vary from place to place. In some provinces, home births with registered midwives in attendance are fully covered by provincial health care; in others, the parents must pay the full cost and midwives are not licensed.


5. Home birth is not for everyone. In some cases, the mother or baby will have risk factors that make home birth inappropriate (although guidelines vary from place to place). Some may live far away from the nearest hospital and worry that they wouldn’t be able to get there quickly enough in an emergency. Other mothers prefer to give birth in hospital where pain-relieving medications are available. But for those who meet the guidelines and choose birth at home, it can be a very positive experience. 

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