In the past month, two new studies have been released - one in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the other in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) - examining out-of-hospital birth outcomes. The CMAJ study examined 2006-09 provincial health records while the NEJM study analyzed two years of Oregon vital statistics data. What makes the NEJM study unique is that the Oregon birth certificate now allows researchers and others to track the intended place of birth, providing for more accurate categorization of the outcome of transfers.
The two studies both found that families that choose out-of-hospital birth experience fewer interventions, including labor augmentation, assisted vaginal births, cesarean births, and episiotomies.
Both studies also found that the absolute risk of adverse neonatal outcomes is small regardless of setting. However, the CMAJ study found equivalent risk between home and hospital settings, while the NEJM study found that planned out-of-hospital births were associated with an excess of less than 1 fetal death per 1000 deliveries -- a small but statistically significant difference.
Media coverage. MANA has compiled resources for midwives reviewing the outcomes and providing guidance for interpretation for families.
First, here's a piece in Forbes that provides balanced coverage (note the article - like many - refers to "home birth" while the study combined birth center and home birth data together).
MANA provided expert commentary to a number of the recent news articles, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Expanded coverage at Science and Sensibility. The official blog of Lamaze International has provided balanced coverage of the New England Journal of Medicine research. In this post, Henci Goer compares and contrasts this newest study with other recent home birth analyses. Missy Cheyney, Chair of the Midwives Alliance Division of Research, provides guidance for families interpreting the new research in this post.
Model transfer guidelines. The authors of the NEJM article call for increased collaboration and integration of out-of-hospital providers into the maternal health care system. The Best Practice Guidelines: Transfer from Planned Home Birth to Hospital, developed by the collaboration committee of the Home Birth Summit, are an important and practical tool to increase integration.
The guidelines were designed to facilitate the safe and mutually respectful transfer of care of a woman and her family from a planned home birth to the hospital. The model blueprint was created as the result of a unique collaboration among physicians, midwives, nurses and consumers.
To learn more or endorse the guidelines, visit here.