With a growing number of American women choosing to give birth at home or in birthing centers, debate is intensifying over an important question: How safe is it to have a baby outside a hospital?
A study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine provides some of the clearest information on the subject to date.
The study analyzed nearly 80,000 pregnancies in Oregon, and found that when women had planned out-of-hospital deliveries, the probability of the baby dying during the birth process or in the first month after — though slight — was 2.4 times as likely as women who had planned hospital deliveries.
Out-of-hospital births also carried greater risk of neonatal seizures, and increased the chances that newborn babies would need ventilators or mothers would need blood transfusions.
On the other hand, out-of-hospital births were far less likely to involve cesarean sections — 5.3 percent compared with 24.7 percent in a hospital. They also involved fewer interventions to augment labor, and mothers had fewer lacerations.