Objective: To report maternal and neonatal outcomes for Australian women planning a publicly funded homebirth from 2005 to 2010.
Design, setting and subjects: Retrospective analysis of data on women who planned a homebirth and on their babies. Data for 2005–2010 (or from the commencement of a program to 2010) were requested from the 12 publicly funded homebirth programs in place at the time.
Main outcome measures: Maternal outcomes (mortality; place and mode of birth; perineal trauma; type of management of the third stage of labour; postpartum haemorrhage; transfer to hospital); and neonatal outcomes (early mortality; Apgar score at 5 minutes; birthweight; breastfeeding initially and at 6 weeks; significant morbidity; transfer to hospital; admission to a special care nursery).
Results: Nine publicly funded homebirth programs in Australia provided data accounting for 97% of births in these programs during the period studied. Of the 1807 women who intended to give birth at home at the onset of labour, 1521 (84%) did so. 315 (17%) were transferred to hospital during labour or within one week of giving birth. The rate of stillbirth and early neonatal death was 3.3 per 1000 births; when deaths because of expected fetal anomalies were excluded it was 1.7 per 1000 births. The rate of normal vaginal birth was 90%.
Conclusion: This study provides the first national evaluation of a significant proportion of women choosing publicly funded homebirth in Australia; however, the sample size does not have sufficient power to draw a conclusion about safety. More research is warranted into the safety of alternative places of birth within Australia.
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