A Cochrane Review* came out a few weeks ago stating that, though there haven’t been enough randomized controlled trials (RCTs–the gold standard in research) to absolutely prove it, an increasing body of observational studies show that planned home birth is just as safe as planned hospital birth for low-risk women.
The best part about it is that the evidence points to unnecessary medical intervention (which leads to complication) at the hospital as the reason home birth is as safe if not safer. It’s the hospitals that are making home birth a safer option!
I would be willing to bet most, if not all, home birthers are indeed afraid something will occur that requires hospital specialty. Luckily, in the overwhelming majority of such cases, a non-emergent transfer to a hospital fills the bill (no pun intended). Women birth at home to avoid being processed like so many cattle, putting themselves and their babies at risk for complications.
From the Cochrane abstract (emphasis mine):
It seems increasingly clear that impatience and easy access to many medical procedures at hospital may lead to increased levels of intervention which in turn may lead to new interventions and finally to unnecessary complications. In a planned home birth assisted by an experienced midwife with collaborative medical back up in case transfer should be necessary these drawbacks are avoided while the benefit of access to medical intervention when needed is maintained. Increasingly better observational studies suggest that planned hospital birth is not any safer than planned home birth assisted by an experienced midwife with collaborative medical back up, but may lead to more interventions and more complications.*
Your baby is probably safer at home. The c-section rate is through the roof. No birth professional is going to say that c-sections are better for moms and babies. The evidence to the contrary is similarly through the roof. But many hospital interventions and policies lead to c-sections.
In my years of reading and thinking about this, the answer is obvious. Also, it is the perfect thing for all the moderate or higher-risk moms. Breech baby? VBAC? No problem! The safest place to birth your baby is at home, and in your front yard is one of those temporary PODS units. Inside the PODS unit is an operating room, an anesthetist, a surgical nurse, and an OB, reading the Times. Should the OB’s services be needed, s/he is called into the house for a consult and either helps the midwife through the difficulty or transfers the woman to the module for a life-saving alien (pod) birth. These portable, on-demand OBs, or PODOBS, could travel around town making births safer–instead of complicating them.
*Planned hospital birth versus planned home birth
Olsen & Clausen Editorial Group: Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group
Published Online: 12 SEP 2012