Distance from Home Birth to Emergency Obstetric Services and Neonatal Outcomes: A Cohort Study
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INTRODUCTION: Little is known about the relationship between distance from hospital services and the outcomes of planned home births. We examined whether greater driving distance from a hospital with continuous cesarean capability was associated with a higher risk of adverse neonatal outcome among individuals who were planning to give birth at home. METHODS: Using an intention-to-treat analysis, we conducted a population-based cohort study of 11,869 individuals who planned to give birth at home in Ontario, Canada, between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2015. We used postal codes to determine the driving time from maternal residence to the closest hospital offering level 2 or higher maternity care services (ie, hospital with continuous cesarean birth capability). We used log binomial regression analysis to compare the outcomes of individuals who planned a birth more than a 30-minute drive from a level 2 hospital with those of individuals whose births were planned to occur within 30 minutes. We adjusted for maternal age, parity, gestational age, season, and maternal material deprivation quintile. RESULTS: We found no statistically significant difference in the rates of 5-minute Apgar scores less than 7 (adjusted relative risk [aRR], 1.02; 95% CI, 0.95-1.10; P = .58), perinatal mortality, meconium aspiration syndrome, and emergency medical service usage. Neonates born to individuals who planned to give birth at a greater distance from a hospital had a lower rate of neonatal intensive care unit admission (aRR, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.44-0.81; P = .001). DISCUSSION: We found no increased risk of adverse neonatal outcomes for births that were planned to occur more than 30 minutes from a hospital. Our findings can be considered, along with individual risk factors and contextual factors, in decision making about the choice of home birth for individuals who live more than half an hour from a hospital with cesarean capacity.
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