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Looking at the risks of home birth: be careful what midwife you use, P.1

The way a couple chooses to give birth to a child is a very personal and potentially sensitive matter. Different couples have different approaches and opinions about what is best for the child, and what is most comfortable for the mother.

One of the options some couples have, depending on their interest, is home birth. It isn’t a particularly popular way to go—less than two percent of births are at home in most developed countries—but it is an option nevertheless. For those who do choose to go with a home birth, it is important to realize there are certain risks involved. 

For instance, some data shows that babies born in planned home births are about seven times more likely to die than babies born in hospitals, while other studies show a death rate about three times higher than hospital births. The studies suggest that racial and economic differences, as well as the quality of prenatal care, is not a factor here.

What seems to be the key factor is the quality of midwife care. Not all midwives receive the same amount of training. Certified nurse midwives, who go by the letters C.N.M., must meet stricter requirements than certified professional midwives, also known who have the letters C.P.M. behind their names. Most home births in the United States are assisted by C.P.M.s rather than more highly trained midwives, and this can make a difference in outcomes.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic and some of the legal issues that can arise when a home birth goes badly, as well as how an experienced attorney can provide guidance and advocacy.


The New York Times, “Why Is American Home Birth So Dangerous?,” Amy Tuteur, April 30, 2016.

Citizens for Midwifery, “New York: Legal Status of Direct-Entry Midwives,” Accessed May 18, 2016.

Office of the Professions, “Midwifery—Questions & Answers,” Accessed May 18, 2016. 

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