Homebirth and Science-reporting
July 30th, 2010 by teragram

Some time within the next 4 weeks, I’m hopefully going to give birth in my home.

Today, my housemate brought home an article from that bastion of journalism the Metro-Herald ( page 5) claiming that homebirth puts babies at risk.

The research paper in question (by Wax et al) is behind a paywall, and might well go over my head anyway, but I did what I could to find as much detail as possible on the tubes. (Detail is definitely not forthcoming in the Metro “article”).

The first few links I found reported the findings in more or less detail:

Summary: the original journal article claims that while “perinatal” mortality rates are the same for planned homebirth and low-risk hospital birth, “neonatal” mortality rates are almost 3 times higher for planned homebirth. (It also claims that if you include babies with congenital birth defects, “neonatal” mortality rates are only twice as bad — which I find puzzling).

I nearly gave up after reading the latter, because I figured that was the most detail I was going to find outside of the article itself.

Later I went back to the search results and spotted these:

Summary: these are critiques of the paper published by The American College of Nurse-Midwives and the National Childbirth Trust. Basically they make the Wax et al paper sound – at best – incompetent. It’s a meta-analysis of other research that doesn’t indicate why some papers were included and others excluded; doesn’t insist on a consistent definition of “neonatal”; doesn’t include enough cases (in the neonatal analysis) to avoid systematic error of insufficient data; includes one study that counts twins, preterm births and post-term births in the home birth group but not in the planned hospital births group (amongst other things). In short, the Wax et al paper seems to be a crock of shit.

The Metro reported that “Midwives criticised the editorial, saying childbirth was ‘not an illness’ and insisting home birth was generally safe.” Science reporting at its finest.


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