Women who give birth in non-hospital settings in Israel are almost three times more likely to encounter complications, particularly perinatal mortality, than those who have their babies in a hospital, new research from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center shows.

The study examined the births of 3,580 women who delivered babies in non-hospital settings and compared them to some 240,000 women who gave birth at Soroka between 1991 and 2014.

Results showed that 15 out of every 1,000 babies born in non-hospital settings are at risk of death, compared to just 5 out of every 1,000 babies born in the hospital. Once variables such as the mother’s existing health, age and health habits were taken into account, the occurrence of a stillborn baby remained significant, with a risk 2.6 times higher for newborn mortality compared to women who delivered in the hospital.

“There is no question that a hospital provides the most secure environment to give birth, both for mothers and their babies,” said Prof. Eyal Sheiner, one of the researchers leading the study. “Even with the advances of modern medicine, childbirth is still traumatic for both the mother and child and it is critical to prepare for any scenario.”

Tracking both the mother’s and baby’s progress, heart rate, blood pressure and overall health in real-time and immediate access to operating theaters and emergency treatment in the event of a problem gives the medical team the best chance to navigate difficult situations effectively, he added.

The study also found that while there were greater incidents of complications resulting from births in non-hospital settings, women who didn’t give birth in the hospital were less likely to suffer from pregnancy-related complications such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

The study’s findings were presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s 39th Annual Pregnancy Meeting in Las Vegas in February.