From gender reveal celebrations and push presents to cutting-edge medical advances, having a baby certainly isn’t what it used to be. And with the resurgence in the popularity of home births, it’s no surprise that more and more research is being done in the field of labor and delivery to determine the safest ways to bring a kiddo into the world. A recently published study in the Netherlands has drawn some conclusions about the safety of home births relative to the income level of the expectant parents, and its results may offer a stepping stone toward improving the process leading up to the big day.
The study was conducted from 2000 through 2008 and encompassed more than 350,000 pregnant women deemed “low risk” by researchers. The research is significant in that it took place in one of the few countries in the Western world with a healthcare system that largely favors home births. More than half of all low-risk pregnancies in the Netherlands take place at home, giving the study a sizable sample of participants to review. Its most compelling finding was the fact that home births among lower-income women resulted in higher mortality rates, whereas with higher-income women, home births were as safe as those taking place in a hospital.
According to the study, possible factors contributing to the disparity include a breakdown in communication between low-income expectant parents and midwives, making it more difficult to accurately determine their level of risk from the start. Proximity (or lack thereof) to hospitals was also a big factor. A less clear but equally logical guess is that the probability of less access to overall resources and a lack of free time to go over medical details — not to mention come up with meticulous birth plans — could be contributing factors as well.
These findings are a solid starting point to open a discussion about the accessibility of alternative birth methods and the availability of information on individual risk factors, not just in the Netherlands and across Europe, but in the US as well. If safer deliveries are contingent upon better communication, what are some realistic ways to swing those doors open so more moms-to-be can get the exact kind of care they want and need?
Have you had a home birth? Share your thoughts in the comments below.