Weighing up home birth vs hospital in the wake of coronavirus

Dr Miranda Davies-Tuck

There’s been a reported surge in women seeking home births since the outbreak of coronavirus in Australia.

Research led by Hudson Institute has shown home birth is safe for women with low-risk pregnancies.

However, epidemiologist Dr Miranda Davies-Tuck says there is no need for pregnant women to change their birth plan from hospital to home as a knee-jerk reaction to COVID-19.

“There’s currently no evidence that planning to give birth in hospital is any less safe than it was before coronavirus,” Dr Davies-Tuck said.

“COVID-19 rates are low in Australia at present so your risk of contracting it when you go to hospital is also low.”

“Private midwives have reported increased demand – but they can’t take everyone,” she adds. “Women tend to book in early. Many (private midwives) are simply booked out.”

Dr Davies-Tuck led research published in 2018 which found women with healthy, low-risk pregnancies who gave birth at home with a midwife had comparable rates of stillbirth and neonatal death to healthy low-risk women who gave birth in hospital.

However, the rates of neonatal death were higher during home birth in women with high-risk pregnancies (such as post-term, multiple births, a prior caesarean and women with medical conditions like diabetes) than in similar women who gave birth in hospital.

The research, based on a study of births in Victoria from 2000-2015, has helped inform new Safer Care Victoria guidelines for home births. The development of the draft guidelines, led by Dr Davies-Tuck, are now out for consultation.

Dr Davies-Tuck is also Investigator on a current study examining the impact of COVID-19 on private practicing midwives in Australia, with collaborators Professor Caroline Homer (Burnet Institute, Melbourne), Professor Hannah Dahlen (Western Sydney University) and Dr Vanessa Scarf (University of Technology Sydney).

More information on the survey can be found here.

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