Objective: To compare perinatal mortality and severe perinatal morbidity between planned home and planned hospital births, among low-risk women who started their labour in primary care.
Design: A nationwide cohort study.
Setting: The entire Netherlands.
Population: A total of 529,688 low-risk women who were in primary midwife-led care at the onset of labour. Of these, 321,307 (60.7%) intended to give birth at home, 163,261 (30.8%) planned to give birth in hospital and for 45,120 (8.5%), the intended place of birth was unknown.
Methods: Analysis of national perinatal and neonatal registration data, over a period of 7 years. Logistic regression analysis was used to control for differences in baseline characteristics.
Main outcome measures: Intrapartum death, intrapartum and neonatal death within 24 hours after birth, intrapartum and neonatal death within 7 days and neonatal admission to an intensive care unit.
Results: No significant differences were found between planned home and planned hospital birth (adjusted relative risks and 95% confidence intervals: intrapartum death 0.97 (0.69 to 1.37), intrapartum death and neonatal death during the first 24 hours 1.02 (0.77 to 1.36), intrapartum death and neonatal death up to 7 days 1.00 (0.78 to 1.27), admission to neonatal intensive care unit 1.00 (0.86 to 1.16).
Conclusions: This study shows that planning a home birth does not increase the risks of perinatal mortality and severe perinatal morbidity among low-risk women, provided the maternity care system facilitates this choice through the availability of well-trained midwives and through a good transportation and referral system.