advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Are Home Births Safe?

My sister is pregnant and wants to have her baby at home, but home births just don't seem safe to me. Am I wrong? What do you think about home births?

A
Answer (Published 5/9/2014)

Out-of-hospital births, including home births, have been increasing slowly and steadily, but if the numbers reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in March 2014 are accurate, these deliveries still represented only 1.36 percent of all births in the United States in 2012, the last year for which the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics National Vital Statistics System has data.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Energy - If you are a parent or grandparent, you know that abundant energy is vital when it comes to keeping up with the kids. Certain supplements can help keep you energized, naturally - learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation.

Of all the out-of-hospital births, 66 percent were home births, 29 percent took place in birthing centers and five percent in clinics and medical offices, the CDC reported. Most of the women opting for home births were non-Hispanic white women.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, home births can be an option for women who are experiencing healthy, low-risk pregnancies. On its website, the association lists conditions that argue against home births: women who are diabetic, those who have chronic high blood pressure or toxemia (also known as preeclampsia), and those who have experienced preterm labor in the past or are considered at risk of it. The association also would rule out home births when a woman's partner doesn't support her desire for one.

As you would expect, there is a fair amount of controversy about out-of-hospital births. A study presented at the February, 2014, meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine found that babies born at home with midwives in attendance have a risk of neonatal death four times higher than that seen in babies delivered by midwives in hospitals. The same study found that the risk increased to about seven-fold if the pregnancy was the mother's first and by about 10 fold in pregnancies beyond 41 weeks, now considered "late term." For this study, neonatal deaths were defined as those that took place up to 28 days after delivery. The study authors said that obstetric practitioners have an ethical obligation to disclose the increased absolute and relative risks associated with planned home birth to expectant parents who express an interest and to recommend strongly against it.

That report was challenged by the American College of Nurse-Midwives, which questioned the accuracy of the CDC data used in the study and maintained that the birth certificates the researchers relied upon in compiling their data are not always the most accurate source of information on home births. For example, you cannot learn from a birth certificate whether or not a woman planned to have her baby at home or in the hospital. Some may have intended to go to the hospital but gave birth at home unexpectedly, and some women who planned to give birth at home may have been transferred to the hospital if complications developed or if the midwife could not reach her in time.

The conventional medical community offers only grudging support for home births. The American Pediatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintain that the safest settings for births in the United States are hospitals and birthing centers, but both organizations acknowledge the right of women to make medically informed decisions about delivery.

All things considered, I think home births are just fine for women experiencing low-risk pregnancies, as long as they and their caregivers take adequate precautions, have medical backup (an obstetrician who works with the midwife) and good prenatal care.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Sources:
Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, "Increasing trend in home birth neonatal mortality rates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, February 3, 2014, accessed March 5, 2014 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140203084527.htm

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "Definition of Term Pregnancy," Obstetrics & Gynecology, November 13, 2013, accessed January 16, 2014 http://www.acog.org/About_ACOG/ACOG_Departments/~/media/Committee%20Opinions/Committee%20on%20Obstetric%20Practice/co579.pdf

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here