Are Hospital Births or Home Births Safer?
Author: Dr. Raymond Obomsawin
Publish date:
Summary: Take a closer look at the safety of midwife-assisted home births versus hospital births.
 
 

The knowledge and practice of midwifery constituted an integral part of the traditional health care system of Canada’s first peoples. As an indispensable feature of traditional life, its practice accorded Aboriginal woman a source of recognition and esteem in the community. The role of a woman as counselor and midwife was understood to be the Creator's calling to a very special profession.

Source: a4gpa on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/a4gpa/4139339312/in/photolist-spHmue-4fpfBz-5jPFZR-CFJGG-jJcoku-5HZbdd-6bhnam-y6Dvub-7iMcnb-4dRu6G-hgjNqW-jJaqEF-d3jgg3-oUk91i-4UyWcM

Traditional Aboriginal midwives were considered as fundamental in the childbirth process and in transmitting ethical values from one generation to the next. Elders can recall that pregnancy and childbirth took place on a closely knit basis linking the midwife to the birthing woman, the infant, the husband and father, the extended family, and the entire community.

However in the post-contact era there came over time the loss of the right for midwives to assist with birth within their traditional territories. Colonialism, the impositions of western medicine, the residential school system, and government legislationall served to alter the socioeconomic and traditional ways of Aboriginal people and undermined many of their long-standing healing traditions. The combined impact of these forces, in addition to major deterioration in health status, played havoc on Aboriginal cultures and undermined the previous balance and harmony within their communities.

In recent years Canada has faced a shortage of maternity care providers that grows more acute every year. This shortage is felt most acutely in rural and remote communities and has fostered an increased acceptance of midwives as appropriate care providers for low risk pregnancies.

For Aboriginal communities, this situation has provided greater opportunity for the restoration of midwifery and community-based births. Indeed, current efforts are underway in a limited number of regions in Canada to revive traditional midwifery in Aboriginal communities. Despite the obvious need it has proven to be a difficult task. Many of the older practices have been lost and few Aboriginal midwives are left to pass along what survives of their indigenous knowledge.

As an encouraging note, emerging forms of Aboriginal midwifery demonstrate an attempt to blend both traditional and modern forms of midwifery in order to create innovative models that focus on culturally relevant, community-based care.

Safety Issues

Perhaps the chief impediment to this movement taking full wing in all regions of Canada has been the misconception on the part of both medical professionals and lawmakers that high-tech hospital births are superior safety-wise to midwife-assisted births in more family based settings, such as the home. Although there can be some risks involved in childbearing, in the vast majority of cases pregnancy and childbirth are normal functions of a healthy body, and not a life or death crisis that requires the supervision of high technology and surgical intervention.

With fewer high-tech hospitals and obstetricians than are found in North America, many countries such as Holland, Sweden and Denmark employ midwives as the primary care-givers for healthy women during their pregnancies and births. Statistically, such countries have the highest birth survival rates in the world.

In recognition of this fact, and understanding the potential dangers of the overuse of childbirth technology, the World Health Organization has urged countries with highly medicalized birthing—as is the case in Canada and the United States—to return to a midwife-based system of maternity care.

Midwives, in fact, still attend most of the births around the globe. Physicians, in spite of their advanced training and surgical specialties, have never proven themselves to be better childbirth attendants than midwives. And no research has ever demonstrated that hospitals are the safest places in which to give birth. In reality, study after study has demonstrated that for the majority of child-bearing women, the homebirth/midwifery model should be the standard for maternity care.i

Safety in childbirth is measured by how many mothers and babies die, and for how many the process of childbirth precipitates a compromise in their health and well being. Multiple studies that have compared hospital and out-of-hospital births point with clearness and consistency to fewer deaths, injuries, and infections for homebirths supervised by a trained attendant, than for births that occur in hospitals. While maternal death rates have vastly improved in the 20th and 21st centuries, factors such as improved maternal nutrition during pregnancy and greater attention paid to cleanliness have played a major role in this positive change.

One of the earliest studies done on the issue of childbirth mortality and safety took place in 1939 in the American Southwest. It revealed a perinatal mortality rate of 26.6 per 1,000 live births in homes, compared to a hospital birth mortality rate of 50.4 per 1,000.ii A late 20th-century European study examining the perinatal mortality rate (PMR) for 185,573 births in Holland found the highest death rate among physician assisted deliveries in hospitals at 18.9 perinatal deaths per 1000 births; with physician-assisted home births at 4.5 per 1000; followed by midwives assisting in hospitals at 2.1 per 1000; with the lowest rate being for midwives assisting at home, 1 per 1000.iii

So far, the largest and most comprehensive study on the comparison of hospital birth outcomes to that of homebirth outcomes was a study in which 1046 homebirths were compared with 1046 hospital births of equivalent populations in the United States. For each home-birth patient, a hospital-birth patient was matched for age, length of gestation, number of prior pregnancies, risk factor score, education and socioeconomic status, race, presentation of the baby, and individual major risk factors. Like their hospital counterparts, infants born at home had trained attendants and prenatal care. The infant death rate of the study was low in both cases and essentially the same, and there were no maternal deaths for either home or hospital. The primary differences were found in the significant improvement for both the mother’s and the baby’s health if homebirth took place. The results of this study showed these likelihoods if a woman gave birth in a hospital:

  • Three times greater likelihood of cesarean operation;
  • Twenty times greater use of forceps;
  • Six times greater infant distress during labor;
  • Four times greater rate of infection;
  • Five times more cases of maternal high blood pressure;
  • Twice as much reliance upon oxytocin to accelerate or induce labor;
  • Three times greater incidence of babies requiring assistance to begin breathing;
  • Greater incidence of episiotomy operations (while concurrently experiencing more severe tears in need of major repair);
  • Three times greater incidence of postpartum hemorrhage.


While the hospital group had thirty (30) cases of birth injuries, including skull fractures, facial nerve palsies, brachial nerve injuries and severe cephalohematomas, there were no such injuries at home.iv

The high tech birth industry in the United States has led to one of the highest rates of cesarean births in the world with 22% of births using C-sections, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control maintaining that it should be maximally 15%, and the WHO recommending that it should be no more than 10%.v

Negative birth statistics for high-tech birthing systems are as bad as they are for numerous reasons:

  1. Not following the natural birthing cycle;
  2. Attempting to schedule births rather than follow the natural timing;
  3. Considering any time over 9 months as being abnormal when gestation periods can easily fluctuate by days or even a few weeks;
  4. Physicians inducing labor prematurely by rupturing water bags;
  5. Attempting to ease a mother’s pain with epidurals which then render contractions difficult and the woman unable to work with her system leading to pitocin, forced birth, and eventual C-section;
  6. C-sections preventing babies from developing full respiratory function, which occurs during the passage through the birth canal;
  7. Premature severing of the umbilical cord before it stops pumping robbing the baby of vital immunoglobulins;
  8. Taking the baby away from the mother immediately after birth thus severing a 9-month connection putting the baby into shock and confusion.vi

Summary of Benefits for Home Birth

It is safer – Research from all regions of the world have consistently shown that planned homebirths are as safe, and in many cases safer, than hospital births. With a trained midwife there are fewer deaths, injuries and infections, and a much lower level of intervention at home than in hospital.

Source: David J. Laporte on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/footloosiety/5465559773/

Less intervention - The woman in labor is encouraged to believe in birthing as a natural process. This entails listening to and working with her own body and natural instincts, thus avoiding unnecessary intervention. Research indicates that women giving birth in a home setting rated the process of labor and delivery as significantly less painful than did women who gave birth in a hospital.

No or less medication - Drugs commonly used for labor and birth in hospital settings carry risks for both the mother and baby, and can lead to further complications or interventions. Alternative pain alleviation methods that can be used at home include water, massage, counter-pressure, heat, cold, breathing techniques, movement, different positions, vocalizing, strong emotional support, etc.

Less infection - Mothers and newborn babies are actually less susceptible to infections from the bacteria they encounter in their own home. Studies have shown newborn infection rates up to four times higher for hospital birthed babies (including dangerous organisms such as MRSA - Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).

Familiar environment - A women feels more comfortable, relaxed, and in control in the environment of her own home; she is also surrounded by familiar people whom she trusts. Research points to the fact that labor can be made more difficult by being in an unfamiliar environment, while there are less likely to be complications, and unexpected interruptions, during labor at home. Discomfort, anxiety, tension, and fear can increase the pain experienced in childbirth, while relaxation can diminish maternal stress, improve oxygen flow to the baby, and help to facilitate labor.

No travel - Travel during labor is often painful and stressful and has been shown to inhibit successful labor and contribute to unnecessary intervention. Travel closely following the birth could also potentially disrupt mother-infant bonding and adversely affect breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding - Mothers and babies who have experienced a more relaxed and stress-free birthing experience with little or no drugs are less likely to encounter some of the common breastfeeding problems. Studies suggest that breastfeeding is generally easily established by homebirth mothers.

Midwifery care - Homebirth midwives believe that birth is a normal life event and provide continuity in their support and care throughout the pregnancy, labor, and after the birth.

Privacy - A woman giving birth at home can more freely move about, change her positions as needed and vocalize more freely since there are no protocols, routines, or strangers to inhibit her.

Emotional bonding - After a home birth the baby is not removed from its mother's side. The emotional bonding that takes place in the hours after birth between mother and child and between the baby and the entire family promotes well being, encourages breastfeeding, and speeds recovery of the mother.

Emotional well being - A homebirth mother who has given birth naturally without drugs or intervention is more likely to feel positive about herself and about her birthing experience. This, along with support from midwife, friends and family, decreases the likelihood of post-birth depression.v

Learn more about the controversy between natural and pharmaceutical medicines in Dr. Obomsawin's report "The Efficacy and Safety of Traditional Plant Medicines."

 


 

i. Janet Tipton (ed.), Is Homebirth for You? Six Myths About Childbirth Exposed (Big Sandy, TX: Friends of Homebirth, 1990).

ii. Ibid.

iii. M. Tew and S. Damstra-Wijmenga, "Safest Birth Attendants: Recent Dutch Evidence," Midwifery 7:2 (June, 1991): 55-63.

iv. Larry G. Overton, "Is Midwifery Safe?" http://www.birthmattersmidwifery.com/faq/is-midwifery-safe.html. See also Lewis Mehl, Home Birth Versus Hospital Birth: Comparisons of Outcomes of Matched Populations, Presented to the 104th Mtg. of the American Public Health Association (October 20, 1976).

v. Personal communication dated July 7, 2008 from R. Upton, Executive Director, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Vice-President, American Herbalists Guild.

vi. Ibid.

vii. Embrace Home Birth - A Positive Choice (Christchurch New Zealand) http://www.embrace.net.nz/homebirth.htm. See also Anitra Carr, Home Birth: Is it safe? http://www.embrace.net.nz/articles/pregnancy_birth/home_birth_-_is_it_safe.pdf and Rostislav A. Serota, "Home Births Are Safer Than Hospital Births," New York Times (June 29, 1995).

Disclaimer: This article is provided by a third-party source. Providing a third-party article on amazinghealth.com indicates that we stand behind the content of that particular article, but it is not an endorsement by Amazing Health of the author's opinion, lifestyle or work published elsewhere.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada. Our articles and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before following any recommendations or using any product on our site. You assume sole responsibility for your personal health, and you must use your own discretion under doctor consultation to determine whether any product or recommendation on this site is suitable for your personal situation. Please read our full Terms of Use.

Get Healthy!
Gardening
Core Research
Healthy Living Resources
Health Hazards
Spirituality and Health
What's the right kind of Water for my Health?
Laws of health
Learn the eight laws of health that lead to an abundant life.
Air Sunlight Nutrition Water Exercise Rest Temperance Trust
Balanced Living
Dr. Rainda gives good advice on balanced living.
Herbs and Foods for Better Blood
Why is building your blood important? What does it mean to cleanse your blood? The answers to these questions could prove instrumental in guiding you to better health.
A Happy Family
Read about four important parenting tips from Ellen White to help develop a healthy family unit.
Fasting
Moderate, monitored fasting can be part of a healthy detox regime.
The 21-Day Program Foods and Juices that Detoxify the Body Best Three-Day Water Fast Different Kinds of Fasting Why Fast? Fasting in the Bible
Getting a Good Start
Starting the day right involves a hearty, healthy breakfast.
Acid-Base Balance in Food
How to Achieve a Perfect Combination
Diet-Induced Acidosis
Young Coconut Kefir
Learn what young coconut kefir is, in addition to all the wonderful benefits you will reap when consuming this ever so fabulous health tonic.
Stress, Stress, Go Away
Everyone experiences stress. We cannot heal from stress without understanding it first, and learning to deal with it head on.
How to Overcome Candida Naturally
What is Candida? Candida is the short name used to describe yeast overgrowth in the body. The technical term is Candidiasis. Like their &...
Charcoal Therapy
Every private home should have charcoal on hand as a ready antidote for poisoning, and as a cleansing agent in infectious and various metabolic disturbances.
Heart Health
A healthy heart is crucial for a healthy life. So why don't we take better care of our hearts?
Pomegranate Health Power Improving Your Blood Circulation Unclogging Your Arteries the Natural Way Oxygen for Life Solving the Varicose Problem
Use it or Lose it!
We keep our muscles strong and effective in the same way that we exercise our spiritual gifts and "prayer muscles" to keep them free from atrophy.
The Healing Power of Honey
From burns to weak bones, raw honey can help.
Fresh Vegetable & Fruit by Dr. N.W. Walker
Written in 1936 and still used as an essential reference today. Book Review.
Mighty Melons
Melons are more than just a sweet, juicy treat.
Iron in the Vegan Diet
Learn the importance of iron in the diet and how to get enough iron the vegetarian way.
Is Your Get Up and Go Gone?
Chia Seeds
Learn why you should make chia seeds a part of your diet.
Epsom Salt
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, has long been used as a home remedy for a variety of ailments. Added to bath water, it has been used to relieve colds, back pain, ease muscle tension and treat certain skin conditions.
Epsom Salts in the Garden
Chlorella
A simple green algae food, chlorella, can help with dozens of health conditions.
Skin Care
Learn how to take care of your biggest organ: your skin.
The causes of Poor Skin Dry Skin Brushing and Washing Building Beautiful Skin Supplements and Topical Treatments Deathtraps in the Cosmetics we Use
Nature's Planting Table
Several charts show best time to plant vegetables in accordance with blooming time of perennials.
Garden Vegetable Planting Amounts Per Person
A helpful chart for those wanting to grow their own garden vegetables.
Rule of Thumb for Spacing in the Garden
Chart showing how to space your vegetables in the garden and how to care for your plants.
Heating with Wood
Why is wood heating such a good idea?
Back to the Garden
Steve Day explains the importance of nutrient-rich soil for growing produce.
Scientific Soil Feeding
Mineral deficiencies in soil, using a refractometer, and making the most of your garden are all discussed.
Soy Safety Summarized
Is soy a smart food to include in a healthy diet?
Marvelous Magnesium for Your Heart
Every 7 minutes, someone in Canada dies of a heart attack or stroke. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death and magnesium deficiency is a major contributing factor.
Magnesium
Scientists Discover That Plants Communicate via Symbiotic Root Fungi
Can plants really communicate? Ask Dr. Mercola.
Could Carrageenan be Harmful for your Body?
Carrageenan, a food additive made from seaweed, could be harmful.
Mammograms or Thermal Imaging?
Mammogram screening is becoming increasingly popular in North America. But is it the safest way to screen for breast cancer?
Are Mammograms Safe?
The Gluten Connection: Weighing in Against Modern Wheat
Jean Handwerk explains the connection between modern wheat and many averse health effects.
Carob: Chocolate's Safe Alternative
Is chocolate really that bad? If so, what are the alternatives?
Depression
Find practical ideas for dealing with depression in these articles about symptoms and treatments.
Diseases of the Mind Ugly Words, Ugly Rice SAD and Bright Light Therapy
Dietary Patterns for Adults
It has been shown that a vegan diet can provide all the body’s needs and can be followed without fear.
Different Diets for Different Blood Types?
Does Eat Right For Your Type by Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo align with Scripture and science?
Is Poor Digestion Poisoning You?
Even if you don’t feel sick, your digestion may be poor enough to slowly poison your system. No, this isn’t simply a theory, but the conclusion from years of laboratory testing and clinical experience. Autointoxication is real.
How to Kill a Cold, Starve a Fever
The fever is perhaps the most overtreated health symptom of all.
The Medical Properties of Clay
Tony de Morais explains the wide spectrum of uses for clay.
Many Doctors Ignore the Root Cause of Cancer
In 1971 President Nixon and Congress declared war on cancer. So what's happened in the 40 years since? After weeding out the hype and filling in the actual statistics, it turns out, not much.

An Ounce of Prevention
Can anything be done to prevent common illnesses?
Mercury Poisoning from Amalgam Dental Fillings
Don't let dentists put this poison in your mouth!
Potato Power
A look at the health benefits of potatoes.
Tylenol, the tip of the iceberg
Dr. Hugo Rodier explains the danger behind prescription drugs and painkillers.
Multiple Sclerosis
Dr. Roy Swank found that the diets of those with Multiple Sclerosis can make a difference in their prognosis.
Are Hospital Births or Home Births Safer?
Take a closer look at the safety of midwife-assisted home births versus hospital births.
Healthy Snack Alternatives
When you open the fridge to grab a snack, consider simple, healthy alternatives to sugar-filled munchies and beverages.
Sources of Calcium - Chart
A quick reference list of healthful, dairy-free ways to get your calcium.
Links for Healthy from Inside Out featured products
Find information on the products that Jeanie Davis recommends in Healthy from Inside Out
How to Clean Vegetables and Fruit
Learn the best, natural mixture to use when cleaning fresh veggies and fruit.
Shopping Guide to Avoiding Organic Foods with Carrageenan
When shopping for groceries, check the labels for carrageenan, a thickening agent scientists are blaming for various gastrointestinal illnesses.
The Best Houseplants for Purifying the Air
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released an air quality model to show that more than 9 in 10 people live in areas that have unsafe levels of air pollution.
Animal Products and Food-borne Illness
Food borne illness is on the increase worldwide. In most cases, animal products are implicated as the main source of infection.
Schedule for a Healthy Lifestyle
Health is about more than just diet or exercise.
Healthy Meal Ideas
Inject some fun into your food routine with these healthy meal ideas.
Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors
12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals and How to Avoid Them. Copyright © Environmental Working Group, www.ewg.org. Reprinted with permission.

Pain Management 101
Pain pills aren't always the best way to deal with aches and soreness. Various therapies—including vibrational therapy—can have you on the road to recovery.
Compatible Combinations of Plant Foods
Some fruits and vegetables should not be eaten together, as they can react and cause digestive issues.
Chocolate and Carob Compared
Have you considered carob as an alternative to chocolate? See for yourself the impact chocolate can have on your health.
Acid and Alkaline Ash Food Groups - Graph
Learn about the acidity or alkalinity of your favorite foods.
Damaged Minds
Excitotoxins cause physical and spiritual destruction.
What are Excitotoxins? Health Risks Diet Soda Meat Substitutes Aspartame
Alcohol
Is consuming alcohol ever a good idea?
Is a Little Wine Good for the Heart? Is a Little Wine Good for the Soul? Intoxicants
Smoking
Smoking leads to massive amounts of sickness and death every year.
Tobacco Kicking the Tobacco Habit Nicotine and Depression
Meat Mysteries
Maybe vegetarianism is the best option after all...
Poisoned Meats Clean and Unclean Mad Cow Disease Getting the Pork Out
The Dairy Controversy
Get the truth about lactose, calcium, and the need for caution around dairy products.
Drink Milk? Udder Propaganda Why Women Crave Chocolate Lactose Intolerance Why You Should Switch From Chocolate to Carob Did You Say, "Pass the Milk?" Osteoporosis Calcium
Genetically Modified Foods
The agriculture industry is fast becoming reliant on genetically modified foods. Learn the facts about GMOs and the effects this trend is having on health worldwide.
Still Eating Genetically Modified Foods? The Big GMO Cover-up MSG: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets
Diabetes: An Epidemic Disease
Diabetes is spreading across North America. Is there anything we can do to stop this killer disease?
Sugar—Affecting the Body and Mind
Refined sugar is addictive, destructive, and devoid of any nutritional value. Why does it continue to be a staple food across the world?
Sugar and Mental Illness Eating Sugar is Worse than Eating Nothing at All Sugar Substitutes The Truth About Evaporated Cane Juice Coke or Water?
The Additive Invasion
There are now over 3,000 additives in our foods. Incredibly, only 7% have any nutritional value.
Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid
Coffee
Do the stimulating benefits of coffee really outweigh the costs?
America's Number One Drug Problem—Coffee Caffeine
Refined Grains
Most of the bread products consumed today are made of refined grains. Are our breakfast cereals and "fortified" loaves as healthy as we like to think?
Vaccination: A Medical Abomination
Vaccination began 200 years ago as an experimental life-saving medical tool. While it originally had some merit, today it has become perhaps the leading cause of death and disability among our children.
Hepatitis B Vaccines Have You Had Your Flu Shot?
Music and the Frontal Lobe
Music enters the brain through its emotional regions, which include the temporal lobe and the limbic system.
Compromise in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Plant medicine safety pale in comparison to the promotional and safety practices of the mainstream drug industry.
A Good World Gone Bad
If God made the world, and our bodies, then the Creation story can give us clues about how we should live for optimum health. But how did what God called "good" transform into a dog-eat-dog world of carnivores, thorns, parasites, and other ugly aspects of Creation?
An Imperfect Planet
If God made everything so good, why are there so many problems? Are thorns and weeds evolved adaptations or changes in Creation?
Evidence For Design
This article uses pieces of nature, such as the genome, the cell, and even the eye, as evidence that God is the Creator of all things.
The Genome is Evidence for Design The Cell is Evidence for Design The Organs are Evidence for Design
Evidence For Transformation
It seems clear that organisms change over time. But why? Is it evolution?
Rapid Transformation
Change over time seems to prove devolution rather than evolution. But what does rapid transformation show?
The Dawn Chorus and Life Forces
Some call it cacophony and are driven to madness; others find it the most beautiful event in all of creation—the dawn chorus of the birds.
What Water Should I Drink?
There are many types of water available today. Some are better for your health than others.
Are You Drinking Enough Water?
Learn why drinking at least 2.5L of water per day is vital to your body's health at any age.
A Kidney Crisis Signs You Need More Hydration
Fluoride—Making us Stupid and Unhealthy
Fluoride in drinking water has been linked to decline in IQ and may cause health issues.
Early Death Comes from Drinking Distilled Water
Dr. Rona writes about how drinking distilled water on a regular, daily basis is potentially dangerous.
Why I Now Say No to Distilled Water Only
Day questions the benefits of drinking distilled water long-term.