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The Tragic Death Toll of Homebirth

More than 10,000 American women each year choose planned homebirth with a homebirth midwife in the mistaken belief that it is a safe choice. In fact, homebirth with a homebirth midwife is the most dangerous form of planned birth in the US.

In 2003 the US standard birth certificate form was revised to include place of birth and attendant at birth. In both the 2003 and 2004 Linked Birth Infant Death Statistics, mention was made of this data, but it was not included in the reports. Now the CDC has made the entire dataset available for review and the statistics for homebirth are quite remarkable. Homebirth increases the risk of neonatal death to double or triple the neonatal death rate at hospital birth.

As this chart shows, the neonatal mortality rate for DEM (direct entry midwife, another name for homebirth midwife) assisted homebirth is almost double the neonatal mortality rate for hospital birth with an MD. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that the hospital group contains women of all risk levels, with all possible pregnancy complications, and all pre-existing medical conditions. An even better comparison would be with the neonatal mortality rates for CNM assisted hospital birth. The risk profile of CNM hospital patients is slightly higher than that of DEM patients, but CNMs do not care for high risk patients. Compared to CNM assisted hospital birth, DEM assisted homebirth has TRIPLE the neonatal mortality rate.

The chart shows the data for 2003-2004, but the data for 2005 has recently become available. Homebirth death continues to be far higher than death in the hospital for comparable risk women. In 2005 the neonatal death rates were CNM in hospital 0.51/1000, MD in hospital 0.63/1000 and DEM attended homebirth 1.4/1000.

No wonder the Midwives Alliance of North American (MANA), the trade union for homebirth midwives, is suppressing their safety statistics. From 2001-2008, they have collected the single largest repository of data on homebirth. The data is publicly available, but only to those who can prove they will use them for the “advancement” of midwifery, and even then, a legal non-disclosure agreement must be signed as part of the process. MANA’s data may very well confirm that homebirth with a DEM has triple the neonatal mortality rate of hospital birth for comparable risk women in the same year.

What is also notable is that the results are consistent with all existing scientific studies, including the Johnson and Daviss study (Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America). Johnson and Daviss actually showed that homebirth with a CPM has a neonatal mortality rate almost triple that of hospital birth for low risk women. The latest statistics are the most recent and most reliable confirmation of that fact.

There really is no question about it. Homebirth with a homebirth midwife dramatically increases the risk of neonatal death.

Posted in: Obstetrics & gynecology

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