Risks of Giving Birth at Home

June 20, 2018

In recent years, families have sought more alternative, non-hospital locations for giving birth, such as at home and at birthing centers. The complications of giving birth outside of the hospitals can be a reason for concern, but a lot of times women feel more compelled to give birth at a place that suits their values and preferences more than their personal care and safety are concerned.

Birth Injuries Not as Common in Modern Times

Risks of Giving Birth at Home

Risks of Giving Birth at Home

A study released in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that in recent year’s babies rarely die in any given setting, but most, if any, generally occur in out-of-hospital settings.1

According to a recent feature article in the Boston Globe, “the relative risk of a baby dying may be double in an out-of-hospital setting, but the absolute risk is still very low, while the relative risk of having a C-section is five times higher in a planned hospital birth than a planned out-of-hospital birth.2 

Medical Mistakes Made During Deliveries

Even the best doctors and midwives can make mistakes. Generally speaking, birth injuries or birth trauma are the most common form of complication during labor and delivery. The injuries themselves vary from mild bruising to severe brain damage. Injuries to babies are most common in at-risk mothers or pregnancies. Injuries to newborns most often occur when:

  • Babies are oversized or undersized
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion – meaning the mother’s pelvis shape and size is not adequate for normal vaginal delivery
  • Dystocia – prolonged difficult labor
  • Baby position is in “breech birth” where the baby’s legs or buttock are positioned to come out first, instead of the head

Top Reasons for Giving Birth in Hospitals

Often times referred to as the medical model of care, hospitals and birthing provided by certified physicians can provide the following type of maternity experience:

  • More focus on uniformity and standardization versus individualized care
  • Able to rely on several interventions routinely, whether the patient is aware or not
  • More focus on facility technology than patient’s physiology

Upside to Birthing Centers and At-Home Births

Advanced nursing and midwife techniques have made at-home and birthing center deliveries a popular alternative to hospitals. Recent studies show that the safety and even health benefits of low-risk mother birthing is at an all-time high, according to an article in Midwives Alliance North America.3 On average, only 5.2% of non-hospital births require C-sections, as compared to 31% of full-term pregnancies delivered at hospitals. The following are some disadvantages to having births at each location.4

Downside of Hospitalized Birthing 

  • Less attentive staff to attend to emotional, physical, informational needs, because of the number of other women in labor at the same facility
  • Facility policy limitations on who can be with you during delivery
  • Midwife not available in most hospitals
  • Hospitals house sick people
  • Fathers often feel left out and less a part of the experience

Downsides of At-Home

  • Patients accept greater level of responsibility, decision making, and acceptance of consequences of their choices
  • Negative support of family, since hospitals are the preferred location for birth
  • Women are responsible for their own personal health care
  • Costs not typically covered by insurance
  • Neonatologist, C-sections, and forceps deliveries not available

Downside of Birthing Center Birthing

  • Screening process tends to eliminate many healthy mothers, especially those over 35 years of age
  • Can still seem clinical and not at-home environment
  • Mothers may still require being transported to hospitals, if complications arise
  • No pediatricians available after birth
  • No overnight or resting period, as discharge is usually within four to 24 hours

Takeaway from Recent Birthing Trends

Hospitals are taking advantage of lessons learned from the free market competition of birthing centers by creating their own environments that combine home-like and birthing centers that include options like:

  • Midwives and continuous support during delivery
  • Pain relief options
  • Loosened restrictions on who can be at the delivery, food and beverages allowed, and freedom to move about

All the birthing experts agree that any at-risk mother should consider a birthing option at a hospital, where several intervention methods can be applied if necessary.

Contact a Portland Birth Injury Lawyer with the Savage Law Firm

For more information and a free consultation with a Birth injury lawyer in Oregon, contact the Savage Law Firm at 503-222-0200 (in Portland) or at 206-957-7272 (in Seattle). You can also email us using the form on this page. We represent clients in communities in both Oregon and Washington from our offices in Portland and Seattle.


1“Planned Out-of-Hospital Birth and Birth Outcomes” published in The New England Journal of Medicine, December 2015.

2“The risks and advantages of giving birth at home” published in Boston Globe, February 2016.

3“New Studies Confirm Safety of Home Birth With Midwives in the U.S.” published in Midwives Alliance North America, January 2014.

4“Advantages and Disadvantages of Birthing at Home, Birth Center, and Hospital” published in Women’s Health & Birth Care.

Categories: Birth Injuries, Portland Personal Injury Lawyers