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Canadian Medical Association article

Canadian newspaper report:
Home Births "Just as Safe"as Hospital Births, Study Says

Owens, National Post, 2/5: Home births assisted by midwives are "just as safe" as births in hospitals and are less likely to result in caesarean sections, infections or the need for pain-relieving drugs, according to a study published yesterday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports. The study is the first to compare the safety of the two types of birth since midwives were licensed to attend home births in many Canadian provinces during the 1990s. 

Dr. Patricia Janssen of the department of family practice at the University of British Columbia studied the records of 2,100 births in 1998 and 1999 -- 862 home births attended by midwives, 743 hospital births attended by doctors and 571 hospital births attended by midwives.  Janssen reported that there was "no statistically significant difference" in safety measures among the three groups (Mickleburgh, Toronto Globe & Mail, 2/5).  The research indicated that home births "had a slightly higher association" with maternal bleeding, infant need for respiratory care and infant death, but none of these differences was large enough to be statistically meaningful.  Although three infants died in the home birth group, compared to only one in the hospital group, a "detailed examination" of the circumstances surrounding the deaths indicated that "complications ... occurred before the onset of labor" and that "nothing would have been likely altered" had the infants been born in a hospital.  In addition, the infant mortality rate for the home birth group was "still below" the average rate for the province. 

The sample size for the study is "not enough to be definitive," Janssen said, although she added that the study's findings "indicate that home births are safe enough to continue to offer ... as a delivery option."  Dr. Regis Blais of the University of Montreal's interdisciplinary health research group said that the study "should have significant impact on those in the medical community who have been resistant to midwifery care, especially home births."  Janssen and her team hope to extend the study until 2005 (Owens, National Post, 2/5).