London: To-be-moms please take note: Women who opt for a home birth for their first baby are almost three times more likely to suffer complications than if they go to hospital, a landmark study has found.
The largest ever study, conducted by Oxford University involving more than 65,500 births in the UK, also found that up to half of first-time mothers were transferred to hospital while in labour from home and third from a midwifery unit.
However, it found that women having their second or third babies, who were classed as low risk, were just as safe at home or in a midwife-only unit as they were in a hospital unit with specialist obstetricians, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The research, published in the British Medical Journal, also found that rates of complications affecting the baby including stillbirth after the start of labour, the baby dying within the first week of birth, brain injury, fractures to the upper arm or shoulder during birth, and faeces in the lungs, were higher for first time mothers.
There were 9.5 such complications per 1,000 births for first time mothers having their baby at home, compared with 3.5 per 1,000 births to first time mothers in hospital.
There was no increased risk for babies whose birth was planned at units led by midwives, either ones that stand alone in the community or which are attached to a clinic, it found.
Prof Peter Brocklehurst, who led the study, said: "For every 1,000 women, 995 babies would have a completely normal outcome.
"These results should reassure pregnant women planning their birth that they can make informed decisions about where they'd most like the birth to happen, knowing that giving birth in England is generally very safe.
"There is an increase in risk for first-time mums planning home births, but poor outcomes for the baby are still uncommon."