Outcomes Associated with Planned Home and Planned Hospital Births in Low-Risk Women Attended by Midwives in Ontario, Canada, 2003–2006: A Retrospective Cohort Study


  • Eileen K. Hutton PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Eileen K. Hutton is an Assistant Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Director Midwifery Education Program and Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, McMaster University, Hamilton
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  • Angela H. Reitsma BSc, BHSc(Midwifery),

    1. Angela H. Reitsma is a Registered Midwife, Practicing Member at The Hamilton Midwives, Hamilton;
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  • Karyn Kaufman DrPH

    1. Karyn Kaufman is a Professor Emeritus Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
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Dr. Eileen K. Hutton, McMaster University Midwifery Program, 1200 Main Street West, MDCL 2210, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 3Z5.


Background: Midwives in Ontario, Canada, provide care in the home and hospital and are required to submit data for all births to the Ontario Ministry of Health database. The purpose of this study was to compare maternal and perinatal/neonatal mortality and morbidity and intrapartum intervention rates for women attended by Ontario midwives who planned a home birth compared with similar low-risk women who planned a hospital birth between 2003 and 2006.Methods: The database provided outcomes for all women planning a home birth at the onset of labor (n = 6,692) and for a cohort, stratified by parity, of similar low-risk women planning a hospital birth.Results: The rate of perinatal and neonatal mortality was very low (1/1,000) for both groups, and no difference was shown between groups in perinatal and neonatal mortality or serious morbidity (2.4% vs 2.8%; relative risk [RR], 95% confidence intervals [CI]: 0.84 [0.68–1.03]). No maternal deaths were reported. All measures of serious maternal morbidity were lower in the planned home birth group as were rates for all interventions including cesarean section (5.2% vs 8.1%; RR [95% CI]: 0.64 [0.56, 0.73]). Nulliparas were less likely to deliver at home, and had higher rates of ambulance transport from home to hospital than multiparas planning home birth and had rates of intervention and outcomes similar to, or lower than, nulliparas planning hospital births.Conclusions: Midwives who were integrated into the health care system with good access to emergency services, consultation, and transfer of care provided care resulting in favorable outcomes for women planning both home or hospital births.