No, homebirth studies have NOT shown that there is no increased risk of death


Homebirth advocates in general, and the Midwives Alliance of North America in particular, love the “big lie.” They have no intellectual respect for each other and operate on the assumption that homebirth advocates will believe anything, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous, if you just say it loud enough and long enough.

For example, MANA executive Wendy Gordon CPM (and placenta encapsulation specialist!), writing in the comment section of her Science and Sensibility piece, which has been ripped to shreds. is still telling lies as fast as she can make them up.

But what seems to be clear, time and time again in the most rigorous studies on homebirth safety, is that for women with healthy low-risk pregnancies, there is no increased risk of death (however that is defined in those studies) …

That, like most of what comes from Wendy Gordon and MANA is bullshit!

Why? For a very simple reason.

Prior to the recent Grunebaum paper showing that homebirth increases the risk of an Apgar score of 0 by nearly 1000%: THERE HAS NOT BEEN A SINGLE HIGH QUALITY STUDY OF NON-NURSE MIDWIFE ATTENDED HOMEBIRTH IN THE PAST 8 YEARS!

In fact, the has only ever been ONE STUDY that specifically addressed non-nurse midwife attended homebirth, the Johnson and Daviss study, which claimed to show that homebirth with a certified professional midwife (CPM) in 2000 were as safe as hospital birth. There’s just one teensy problem. The authors didn’t compare homebirth in 2000 with low risk hospital birth in 2000 because that would have shown that homebirth with a CPM had a death rate nearly 3X higher. In order to hide that fact, Johnson, the former Director of Research for the Midwives Alliance of North America, and Daviss, his wife and a homebirth midwife, compared CPM attended homebirth in 2000 with a bunch of out of date papers extending back to 1969 when (conveniently) the perinatal death rate was much higher than 2000.

All the other homebirth papers that Wendy Gordon and MANA like to quote come from different countries where there are NO CPMs because CPMs are considered to have too little education and training to qualify for licensure in the Netherlands, the UK, and Asutralia. As it happens, those studies from the Netherlands, the UK and Australia ALSO show that homebirth increases the perinatal/neonatal death rate, too. There have been several studies of homebirth in Canada that showed that — with strict eligibility criteria, and a massively high transfer rate — deaths as homebirth could be avoided. There were no CPMs in that study, either, as Canada, which used to recognize the CPM, abolished it several years ago on the grounds of inadequate education and training of CPMs.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there has been no data on non-nurse midwife attended homebirth in the US. The CDC has noted both place of birth and attendant since 2003. They looked at birth certificates signed by non-nurse midwives certifying that they were the attendant who delivered the baby. That means they looked only at PLANNED homebirths and they found, in each and every year, that homebirth had a neonatal mortality rate from 3-7X HIGHER than comparable risk hospital birth. You can see a chart of the results below:


Moreover, the state of Oregon collected their 2012 data of planned homebirths attended by licensed midwives and had it analyzed by Judith Rooks, CNM. It showed that homebirth has a mortality rate than is 9X higher than comparable risk hospital birth.

There is ANOTHER source of data for the death rates of homebirth attended by non-nurse midwives. That’s the database of approximately 27,000+ planned homebirths assembled from 2001-2009 by MANA itself. What’s the death rate for those births? MANA REFUSES TO RELEASE THE DEATH RATE!

At this point, EVERYONE understands that the MANA death rates are hideous, even homebirth supporters. They spend their time spinning absurd reasons why MANA should release the hideous death rates, claiming that they must be “flawed” in some unspecified way that justifies hiding them.

So let’s review why Wendy Gordon’s claim that studies have shown that homebirth is as safe as hospital birth is nothing but a bald faced lie:

1. There have been NO high quality studies of non-nurse midwife attended American hospital birth in the past 8 years.

2. The ONLY study of CPM attended homebirth shows a mortality rate nearly 3X higher than comparable risk hospital birth in the same year.

3. Studies from other countries are not applicable since their midwives are far more highly trained.

4. The CDC data shows that homebirth, in every year from 2003-2008, had a neonatal death rate at least 3-7X higher than comparable risk hospital birth.

5. The Oregon data fro 2012 shows that planned homebirth with a licensed non-nurse midwife has a mortality rate 9X higher than comparable risk hospital birth.

The recently published Grunebaum study merely confirms what we (and MANA) already know: homebirth dramatically increases the risk of perinatal death.

The data is pretty clear and the MANA statistics would merely provide the coup de grace. That’s why it is important for MANA to release their own death rate.

Nearly 300 people have signed the petition to MANA demanding the release of the death rate. Please sign the petition now and urge your friends (real and virtual) to sign, too.

Let MANA know that the time for lying and hiding has passed. American women deserve to know what MANA executives know: how many of the babies in their 27,000+ database died at the hands of homebirth midwives?