The authors of the new study compared three different groups of planned births in British Columbia from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2004: home births attended by registered midwives (midwives are registered in Canada), hospital births attended by the same group of registered midwives, and hospital births attended by physicians. In all, the study included almost 13,000 births.The study doesn't appear to distinguish between low-risk and high-risk births--something most doctors would raise a red flag about. Doctors attend more high-risk births, so it's not surprising to see a higher mortality rate under their care. It's a tricky thing trying to compare different types of births because so many factors are involved in birth outcomes. But I still find this news encouraging.
The mortality rate per 1,000 births was 0.35 in the home birth group, 0.57 in hospital births attended by midwives, and 0.64 among those attended by physicians, according to the study.
Women who gave birth at home were less likely to need interventions or to have problems such as vaginal tearing or hemorrhaging. These babies were also less likely to need oxygen therapy or resuscitation, the study found.
The authors acknowledge that "self-selection" could have skewed the study results, in that women who prefer home deliveries tend to be healthier and otherwise more fit to have a home birth. (Source)
As for the "self-selection" factor, I can definitely attest that I took a far more proactive role in my health during my home birth pregnancy than I ever had before. I exercised, I ate much more healthy food, and was more educated than ever about how to make my pregnancy and birth smooth and healthy. I wanted to do everything I possibly could to increase my odds of a healthy outcome for me and my baby. Whether home birth inspires women to be healthier or healthier women choose home birth, I say it's a win-win either way.