Home birth in New Zealand 1973-93: incidence and mortality

N Z Med J. 1997 Mar 28;110(1040):87-9.


Aims: To determine for the period 1973-93, national and regional (1991 and 1992 only) incidence of home birth in New Zealand, with home birth defined as home being the intended place of birth at the onset of labour, to calculate perinatal and maternal mortality rates for home birth, and to categorise the cause of perinatal death.

Methods: Data sheets for 9776 planned home births were analysed. These had been collected by the Home Birth Associations of New Zealand/Aotearoa. National perinatal data and data from National Women's Hospital, Auckland were used for comparison. Trend analysis was performed by Poisson regression allowing for overdispersion.

Results: Planned home birth made up 2% of the total births in 1993, up from 0.04% in 1973. The home birth perinatal mortality rate for this period was 2.97 per 1000 total births, with no change over time. This was not significantly different from the rate for a selected low risk group at National Women's Hospital. Lethal anomalies caused 31% of the perinatal deaths. There was one maternal death (maternal mortality rate: 1.02 per 10,000 total births). There were significant differences in the rate of home birth in separate area health board regions for 1991 and 1992.

Conclusion: Home birth was a safe and increasingly popular: though minor, option for New Zealand women from 1973-93.

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Home Childbirth / mortality*
  • Home Childbirth / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy