There is a big kerfuffle in Australian politics about home birth at the moment, and it was born out of good intentions. There has been a review of birth in Australia, and lots of good things came out of it, including that midwives should be protected by insurance, just like obstetricians.
I should declare my hand, I was treated by a private obstetrician in all my successful pregnancies, and also dealt with two miscarriages in the Sydney public system.
Home birth is not and never was for me. I am not afraid of home birth, I simply don't want to clean up after it. Frivolous - no, in reality, with good thought about this, as soon as I went into labour, I wanted to be elsewhere. I didn't want to be in my home for my deliveries, but I understand that I am not definitive. Lots of women feel much more comfortable in their own home. It doesn't take a great deal of understanding to get that mammals only progress in their labour when they feel safe. Any and all stress hormones delay and restrict labour. If you look at the science, the answer is clearly in favour of providing the best possible environment for a woman to give birth in. For me, that was a birth centre (the labour ward at my hospital was not as bad as I expected, but definitely inferior), but for others, that is a well-attended home birth.
In The Daily Telegraph there was an unbiased report (cough, hack) about this. It claimed that "All studies done on homebirth confirm there are three times more complications for the mother and baby". It failed to cite a single study.
Lauredhel has cited a study, and it conflicts violently.
Lauredhel's citation comes from Canada. Call me crazy, but it seems at least within the realms of possibility that the Terror's quote and Lauredhel's could both be right. (And I could be really wrong here - please shout if there is an Australian study that disputes this.) If there is insufficient support of home birth in Australia, we might see complications that produce the scary numbers quoted. In fact, in my ante-natal classes we were told about a tragic event in which a baby died because those responsible couldn't reach the baby from the folds of a bean bag in time. This isn't about home birth, this is about having well-prepared people present at a birth. Most babies are delivered without drama. 30% of babies in the Netherlands are delivered at home, and their infant mortality rate is lower than Australia's (thanks Mim).
Delivering a baby safely requires skill. So do home improvements. We expect that appropriately trained people can build or extend their own homes, why don't we expect that appropriately trained people can deliver children?
Part of this is clearly based in the fact that a baby is so directly involved. Everyone feels the need to advocate for the baby. That's not a bad thing - that we all feel some need to protect all infants, regardless of their association with ourselves. The problem is our evaluation of risk. We place faith in science, and we allocate that faith to doctors. I share that faith in science (although I know not everyone does), nevertheless I question every single claim to the authority of science. It can never claim right, only wrong. In the case of medicine, there is mostly neither. Science attempts to guess the best path. Science is done by people, many of whom have a vested interest in the outcome. In the case of obstetrics, this vested interest is obvious. It's about power. Science has no ability to overcome the intention of its protagonists. Anyone may pervert science to support their own ends. The only thing that keeps science in check is other scientists. It cannot find truth in an oligopoly (except by accident). FRANZCOG doesn't exactly represent diversity of opinion, and its estimate of risk needs to be seriously assessed on that basis.
As does the refusal of insurance companies to offer insurance to midwives practising in homes. There is no basis for this refusal. But I don't expect private insurance to offer a useful service, I gave up on any faith in that industry a long, long time ago. I expect our government to insure - it is easily covered by the reduction in costs as a result of boring deliveries like mine not using hospital beds. Efficiency is born of good sense, not capitalism.