How safe is it in the United States to be born someplace other than a hospital? The question has long been the focus of emotional debate and conflicting information. Now, Oregon scientists and health workers who deliver babies have some research evidence that sheds a bit more light.
The study, which involved more than 75,000 low-risk births in the state in 2012 and 2013, found the risk of death for the baby appears to be twice as high when mothers planned to deliver at a birthing center or at home compared with when delivery was intended for a hospital. But in any location the overall risk to the child is very low, the study showed.
“The bottom line is, childbirth in the United States is very safe regardless of where you decide to do it,” says Dr. Michael Greene, who directs obstetrics at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Greene co-authored an editorial accompanying the study in the New England Journal of Medicine but was not involved in the research.
Out of every 1,000 babies whose mothers planned to deliver at home or at a birthing center, 3.9 died just before, during or in the month after labor, the study found. In comparison, 1.8 out of every 1,000 babies died when the births were planned for a hospital, the study found.