In 2014, Britain’s National Health Service made a public announcement urging women to consider using birth centers or having home births instead of hospital births for low risk pregnancy. The reason backing this decision was safety! They reported that 45 percent of uncomplicated pregnancies were better off having midwives assist their births instead of doctors. (1)
Oxford University study led British National Health Service to recommend that birth outside of the hospital is safer for low risk mothers!
In 2011, Oxford University completed a study that reported that giving birth in a traditional maternity wing of the hospital was more likely to end with surgical interventions. The findings of this study and the recommendations made by the National Health Service were expected to change how hundreds and thousands of British women experience birth. (1)
It appears that this study may not only be raising the eyebrows of British mothers or physicians, but may be having an impact in the United States. Dr. Neel Shah works at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and reported that his initial reaction was that this was “heresy.” In the United States, our birth choices are limited to hospital births and birth centers. Home births are not considered mainstream and in some states, it remains illegal to birth outside of the hospital. (2)
Harvard Medical School’s, Dr. Neel Shah, was shocked following his own research and had to agree that the British government may be on to something!
The New England Journal of Medicine asked Shah to respond to British recommendations. This led to Shah comparing birth outcomes and finding that in the United States, cesarean rates are 33 percent in comparison to the United Kingdom’s 26 percent. After researching this, Shah began to think that the British government may be on to something! (2)
Shah stated, “We’re taking excellent care of high-risk women and leaving low-risk, normal women behind. We’re the only country on Earth with a rising maternal mortality rate.” (2)
Not just hospital births are a factor when considering maternal mortality. Shah reports that obesity, lack of consistent prenatal care, and older women having babies impact these findings. But he also reports that hospital infections and rise in emergency and elective C-section deliveries are also a factor. (2)
It’s not just a single study that reports that births outside of hospitals could be safer for mother and baby. Several studies have found similar results. A recent study viewed the outcomes for 17,000 women who gave birth between 2004 and 2009 via home birth. They found that 94 percent of these women had a vaginal birth, with less than 5 percent needing oxytocin or an epidural. Eleven percent of the women received a hospital transfer due to failure to progress, fetal distress and maternal exhaustion. Out of these women, 1,100 were attempting vaginal birth after cesarean. Out of these women, 87 percent were able to successfully deliver their children vaginally! (3)
In the end, rather than an expected rebuttal about the British birth recommendations, Shah agreed that the practice of giving birth outside a hospital with a midwife can indeed be safer! (2)