UBC study shows home births with midwives are cheaper than hospital births

WATCH: A new UBC study finds that home births can save the health care system money and, in most cases, they are just as safe as hospital births. Linda Aylesworth explains.

Babies born at home can save the health care system thousands of dollars and are just as safe as hospital births, according to a new study done by the University of British Columbia.

Researchers compared the costs of planned low-risk home births with a midwife to planned hospital births with a midwife or doctor between 2001 and 2004. They followed babies up to one year of age and mothers up to eight weeks post-partum to compare costs.

“We have done previous work which has established that home birth attended by regulated midwives is safe in B.C.,” UBC professor Patricia Janssen says.

“So the natural question to follow does this save us money or cost us money?”

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The average savings equated to $2,338 for home births compared to a planned hospital birth with a midwife. The savings increased to just over $2,500 when home birth was compared to a hospital birth with a doctor.

But Janssen went one step further and looked at whether or not home deliveries were as safe as hospital deliveries in the long-term. She collected data on medical expenses accumulated in the first year of the child’s life.

“If there were delayed health outcomes such as brain injury from something that happened at a home birth you would expect to see those costs in that first year of life and we didn’t see them,” Janssen says.

“So that suggests to us that there aren’t any hidden health concerns in the first year of life for babies of planned home birth.”

While it’s not a surprise to Janssen because midwives screen very carefully for home births and limit their practice to healthy women, no one has looked this far after a birth. Their research showed the health costs were $810 less for infants born to mothers in a planned home birth with a midwife than those born in a hospital with a midwife. And for a physician-attended birth, the savings was over $1,100.

“This can inform policy and there are some areas in Canada where midwifery has not been regulated yet,” Janssen says.

“We’re trying to produce the kind of data that will inform decision-making both at the policy level and at the individual level. We want women to make the best choice for themselves.”

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~ with files from Linda Aylesworth