Perinatal or neonatal mortality among women who intend at the onset of labour to give birth at home compared to women of low obstetrical risk who intend to give birth in hospital: A systematic review and meta-analyses Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Background: More women are choosing to birth at home in well-resourced countries. Concerns persist that out-of-hospital birth contributes to higher perinatal and neonatal mortality. This systematic review and meta-analyses determines if risk of fetal or neonatal loss differs among low-risk women who begin labour intending to give birth at home compared to low-risk women intending to give birth in hospital. Methods: In April 2018 we searched five databases from 1990 onward and used R to obtain pooled estimates of effect. We stratified by study design, study settings and parity. The primary outcome is any perinatal or neonatal death after the onset of labour. The study protocol is peer-reviewed, published and registered (PROSPERO No.CRD42013004046). Findings: We identified 14 studies eligible for meta-analysis including ~ 500,000 intended home births. Among nulliparous women intending a home birth in settings where midwives attending home birth are well-integrated in health services, the odds ratio (OR) of perinatal or neonatal mortality compared to those intending hospital birth was 1.07 (95% Confidence Interval [CI], 0.70 to 1.65); and in less integrated settings 3.17 (95% CI, 0.73 to 13.76). Among multiparous women intending a home birth in well-integrated settings, the estimated OR compared to those intending a hospital birth was 1.08 (95% CI, 0.84 to 1.38); and in less integrated settings was 1.58 (95% CI, 0.50 to 5.03). Interpretation: The risk of perinatal or neonatal mortality was not different when birth was intended at home or in hospital. Funding: Partial funding: Association of Ontario Midwives open peer reviewed grant. Research in Context: Evidence before this study Although there is increasing acceptance for intended home birth as a choice for birthing women, controversy about its safety persists. The varying responses of obstetrical societies to intended home birth provide evidence of contrasting views. A Cochrane review of randomised controlled trials addressing this topic included one small trial and noted that in the absence of adequately sized randomised controlled trials on the topic of intended home compared to intended hospital birth, a peer reviewed protocol be published to guide a systematic review and meta-analysis including observational studies. Reviews to date have been limited by design or methodological issues and none has used a protocol published a priori.Added value of this study Individual studies are underpowered to detect small but potentially important differences in rare outcomes. This study uses a published peer-reviewed protocol and is the largest and most comprehensive meta-analysis comparing outcomes of intended home and hospital birth. We take study design, parity and jurisdictional support for home birth into account. Our study provides much needed information to policy makers, care providers and women and families when planning for birth.Implications of all the available evidence Women who are low risk and who intend to give birth at home do not appear to have a different risk of fetal or neonatal loss compared to a population of similarly low risk women intending to give birth in hospital.

publication date

  • September 2019