(NaturalNews) Women who give birth at home do not have any higher rate of complications or death than women who give birth in a hospital, according to a study conducted by researchers from the TNO Institute for Applied Scientific Research in the Netherlands, and published in the journal BJOG.
"We found that for low-risk mothers at the start of their labor it is just as safe to deliver at home with a midwife as it is in hospital with a midwife," researcher Simone Buitendijk said. "These results should strengthen policies that encourage low-risk women at the onset of labor to choose their own place of birth."
One-third of women in the Netherlands choose to give birth at home, due to a government encouragement of the policy. Because the Netherlands has one of the highest rates in Europe of infant death during or just after birth, some researchers have suggested that home births might be unsafe.
In the current study, researchers examined data from 530,000 births attended by midwives, and found no difference in the risk of mother or infant death between home births and hospital births.
The study looked only at low-risk women, defined as those going into labor with no known complications. Known complications include a prior cesarean section, a breech baby or a baby with congenital abnormalities.
The study did not include hospital births attended by a doctor rather than a midwife.
The researchers found that a full one-third of women who began their birth at home eventually had to be transferred to a hospital. This might have occurred due to complications such as an abnormal infant heart rate, or simply because the mother chose to opt for pharmaceutical painkillers that could not be administered at home. Even in cases where women were transferred to the hospital, however, neither the mother nor infant was at any higher risk of dying than in any of the other births in the study.