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Home birth risk report criticised

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The Royal College of Midwives has rejected claims that women who opt for a home birth put their baby at risk.

According to a report in medical journal The Lancet, the risk of infant death can be up to three times higher in home births.

But midwives have hit back, saying the practice is generally very safe, and that childbirth is “not an illness”.

Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the RCM, claimed the Lancet article was “incomplete and flawed”.

The report was based on a study carried out in the US, which analysed 550,000 home births in North America, Europe and Australia.

Led by Dr Joseph Wax, of the Maine Medical Centre in New Hampshire, the study found that for healthy women, giving birth at home instead of in hospital doubled the chances of the baby dying.

When infants with congenital defects were excluded from the study, the death rate tripled.

In the UK, 3 per cent of births take place at home - three times more than in the US but far fewer than in the Netherlands, where home births make up a third of the total.

The Lancet editorial said the US study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, provided “the strongest evidence so far that home birth can … be harmful to newborn babies”.

Ms Warwick said: “We are deeply disappointed and dismayed that The Lancet has published an editorial indicating that women would choose to harm their baby in favour of their own needs by choosing a home birth.

“The editorial also cites research that is incomplete and methodologically flawed. There is no evidence to suggest that hospital births are safer than home births.”

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