New pediatric guidelines are being set in response to the growing choice by women to have home births instead of giving birth in the hospital. While doctors used to frown on home births, their stance appears to have softened in recent years.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a position statement in 2011 saying that it still believes the hospital is the safest place to give birth. However, it “respects the right of a woman to make a medically informed decision about delivery.”
In response to that position statement, along with the growing number of home births in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an updated set of guidelines on Monday on how to care for infants born at home.
The guideline’s lead author Dr. Kristi Watterberg, a professor of pediatrics and a neonatologist at the University of New Mexico, explained of the decision:
“We felt that it needed to be stated that no matter where a baby is born, the care needs to adhere to the same standards. One thing we feel very strongly about is that there needs to be one person present at the birth whose primary responsibility is care of the baby.”
The new pediatric guidelines detail how an infant born at home should be taken care of in the hours and days after delivery. For example, babies born larger or smaller than expected should be tested for high blood sugar. Caregivers should also make sure breastfeeding is going without problems.
Also, blood should be drawn from the infant to screen for genetic abnormalities. Watterberg added that the fact that the APP issued guidelines does not mean that it supports home births. Rather, as she stated:
“We concur with ACOG that hospitals and birthing centers appear to be the safest settings for birth in the U.S., but respect the right of women to make their own decisions about delivery.”
The debate between home births and hospital births remains ongoing and very heated. However, evidence suggests that most home deliveries go well. Home births have been linked to one more infant death per every 1,000 live births, according to the latest statement.
Watterberg noted that past reports suggest about 10 to 40 percent of women hoping to have a home birth are taken to a hospital before delivery for unexpected complications. However, most of those transfers are not emergencies. One midwife, Mairi Rothman, explained that the home birth statistic could also be skewed by the inclusion of babies accidentally born at home, meaning times when a woman goes into labor either prematurely or she didn’t know she was pregnant.
Rothman added, “I can tell you with complete confidence, there is nothing in a birth center that I don’t bring to a home birth. What we’re essentially doing is setting up a birth center in someone’s home.”
Do you believe home birth is an acceptable decision by expectant mothers? Or is there less risk of complication by giving birth in a hospital?
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