Home births may help women avoid some of labour's more unpleasant side-effects, new research has suggested.
Giving birth at home could reduce the chances of caesarean section, postpartum haemorrhage, and third-degree perineal tears, according to a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Home deliveries were also linked to lower rates of stillbirth and early neonatal death, although the study's authors emphasised that the sample size was too small to make any definitive conclusions regarding their safety.
Researchers examined nine publicly funded home birth programs between 2005 and 2010 in order to look at maternal and neonatal outcomes.
In that period, 1,521 of the 1,807 women (84%) who intended to have a home birth were able to achieve that ambition.
The rate of stillbirth and early neonatal death was 3.3 per 1,000 births among women who had a home delivery.
However, that fell to 1.7 per 1,000 births once expected foetal anomalies were removed from the equation.
The findings may be the result of the strict eligibility criteria women need to meet before they are approved for a publicly funded home birth, experts said.
Nevertheless, the study provides further evidence about the suitability of home birth for women at low obstetric risk and justifies further research into the safety and costs of alternative places of birth, the study's authors said.
Copyright Press Association 2013