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Is it safe to deliver your baby at home?

If you have considered delivering your baby at home with a midwife or doula instead of at a hospital, you may have also wondered about the risk of injury to mother and baby.

Many midwives emphasize that a home birth is more “natural” to the delivery process and involves less medical intervention than a hospital birth, but without the advanced medical support of a hospital, birth complications can prove dangerous. If something goes wrong, your treatment may be unnecessarily delayed.

People involved

California requires that licensed midwives meet all standards of regulation, have extensive evidence-based knowledge and professional practice in delivering babies. They are often former nurses who go on to graduate school.

However, people who plan for home births may not realize that a birth or postpartum doula does not have the same qualifications as a midwife. This could be very important in the event of an emergency.

A doula (Greek for “woman’s servant”) is a person you can hire who guides an expectant mother in non-medical matters such as breathing and massage or can act as an advocate in a hospital setting. They can help manage emotions as well as corral older children. This person is not a medical professional, but many have certifications (which differ in every state).

Almost every major metropolitan area has their own midwife association with access to licensed midwives and free resources regarding home birth. Unfortunately, anyone can claim they are a doula which could be extremely dangerous if there are birth complications.

Balanced risk

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) release statistics every year related to home births, so that women can make informed medical decisions.

Of the less than 1 percent of births that occur in United States’ homes, approximately 75 percent of them are planned. Although there is a lack of high-quality evidence from at-home births (due to a lack of a randomized control group), home deliveries have higher risk of injury for both mother and child compared to hospital births. These risks include:

  • Doubled risk of death in childbirth
  • Tripled risk of neurological conditions

However, home birth for qualified cases often means less medical intervention (such as inducing labor) and lower stress than a hospital birth. The following are a few complications that can disqualify a case for home delivery:

  • Twins or multiple births
  • Fetal malpresentation
  • Infections or a medical complication in the mother

If an unqualified person helped you in a home delivery, and you or your baby suffered an injury, consider taking legal action. These injuries could result in delayed development or a preventable infection that can seriously jeopardize you or your baby’s health.

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