About 35,000 women in the United States choose to give birth at home each year as estimated by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Women and their partners plan about 75 percent of these home births, while the rest occur unexpectedly.
Review the research about the safety of home birth compared with hospital birth in the U.S.
Data on home birth complications
A 2020 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reviewed births attended by midwives in both the home and hospital settings from 2010 to 2017. Researchers found that home births had about four times the infant mortality rate of hospital births. They noted that nations with well-established home birth programs do not display this type of discrepancy, indicating that the higher rate of infant mortality may result from a lack of screening home birth candidates for safety in the U.S.
Factors impacting home birth safety
Some of the factors that contribute to hazardous home births include:
- Lack of access to interventions such as cesarean section or epidural
- Lack of adequate monitoring for mother and baby
- Limited resources for newborns at risk for complications such as asphyxia
The AJOG study reports that about 50% of women who plan home births transfer to the hospital after complications. The transfer process increases risks for both the mother and her fetus. The risk of home birth is particularly acute for women with a history of cesarean section, multiple births, or obesity or other chronic health conditions.
ACOG recommends that women give birth in a hospital or credentialed birthing center. If birth injuries occur because of provider negligence, families can file a legal claim for medical malpractice.