Home births are safe and save money, says study

A study from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada has found that births performed at home with the help of a midwife are less costly than hospital deliveries and are equally safe for low-risk births.

The researchers examined home births by registered midwives in British Columbia over a four-year period. They found that planned home births saved around $1,922 within the first month of a newborn’s life in comparison to hospital births with a doctor. They also documented continued health care savings during the child’s first year of life.

Previous studies looking at home births have found similar health care savings in the United States. Although out-of-hospital births comprise just over one percent of total deliveries in the country, Centers for Disease Control data shows they have been steadily increasing. While advocates argue that home births are just as safe as hospital deliveries, many doctors have questioned their safety and claim they are linked to higher infant death rates.

Amos Grunebaum, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, likened home births to swimming without a lifeguard on duty. He argued that a planned home birth is “potentially more dangerous” as it poses a higher risk for brain damage in infants.

However, UBC professor Patricia Janssen, the study’s lead author, said, “Cost savings are associated with the place of birth . . . If there were ‘hidden’ health risks associated with planned home births, such as a brain injury diagnosed after the neonatal period, these risks would show up in costs to the health care system — and we are not seeing them.”

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