Study finds home births are ‘cost effective’
A new study carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford, the University of Warwick and University College London has found that planned home births are more cost effective than giving birth in hospital.
by Louise-Anne Geddes, Mindful Mum, 26th April 2012
The research received funding from the Department of Health’s Policy Research Programme and the National Institute for Health Research, and was published in the British Medical Journal. The large scale study used data from almost 65,000 women whose pregnancies were deemed to be low risk. Births in hospital, in stand alone midwife units, in midwife led units located alongside hospital facilities and planned home births were compared.
Safety and cost effectiveness
The economic analysis carried out did not only rank the options on their cost. According to the NHS, medical cost effectiveness studies examine cost and their health outcomes, in this case complications for Mum and baby. It found that the four settings had comparable risks of adverse birth outcomes, although first-time births at home were more likely to have them.
The total healthcare costs for birth at each of the four locations were calculated, and included travel, professionals involved and different treatments given. The average costs for each location were:
- £1,066 for a birth at home
- £1,435 for a birth in a free-standing midwife unit
- £1,461 for a birth in a midwife unit alongside hospital services
- £1,631 for a birth in a hospital maternity unit
Overall, births in any of the three non-hospital settings were at no significantly greater risk of adverse outcomes than births in a hospital maternity unit.
For low risk women having their second or subsequent baby, a planned home birth was the most cost-effective option. For low risk women having their first baby, home birth gave cost savings, but there was a higher risk of adverse outcomes in the newborn around the time of birth. This meant that it was less likely to be cost-effective. When looking at the outcome of complications in the mother, there were reduced chances of complications in non-hospital settings, and home births were the most cost-effective option.
The researchers reminded that the study was intended to examine women with pregnancies at low risk of complications and did not take into account women with potential complications. They concluded that planning for a home birth is the most cost-effective option for women with uncomplicated pregnancies who are having their second or subsequent baby. For low risk women having their first baby, planned home birth is still cost-effective, but there is an increased risk of birth complications.
Where to now?
Source: NHS Choices: Behind the headlines, Study says home births ‘cost effective’, 20th April 2012
Photography: Bridget Coila @Flickr