Homebirth: Is homebirth really a safe birth option?

  • The study doesn't examine case histories of the deaths. With 20 deaths in the homebirth population, the researchers could have reviewed medical records. Doing so would have provided a more accurate picture of whether homebirth care affected outcome and probably would have exonerated it in many cases. For example, another U.S. homebirth study reported two stillbirths and one newborn death (10). One stillbirth occurred hours after the mother was moved into the hospital for slow progress and meconium (the baby's first bowel movement) in the amniotic fluid. The newborn death occurred one day after birth and postmortem studies could not determine its cause. If even a few deaths are eliminated on the homebirth side, the difference between planned home and planned hospital birth disappears.

    Next Page: Find out how the researchers' selection and analysis affects the study's outcome

In a properly done study, the researchers attempt to collect and present data on all relevant outcomes. Pang and colleagues fail to do this. Their study reports only that in addition to a higher newborn mortality rate, women planning homebirth had higher incidences of postpartum bleeding, prolonged labor, babies requiring breathing assistance for more than 30 minutes, very low five-minute Apgar scores (a measure of the baby's condition at birth) and prolonged labor.

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