Many well conducted studies have found that that homebirth is as safe as (if not safer than) hospital birth, for low-risk women attended by skilled midwives. A selection of these studies is listed below:
Planned hospital birth versus planned home birth, The Cochrane Library, April 17th,2012
This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 1998. In summary it was found that:"Most pregnancies among healthy women are normal, and most births could take place without unnecessary medical intervention. However, it is not possible to predict with certainty that absolutely no complications will occur in the course of a birth. Thus, in many countries it is believed that the safest option for all women is to give birth at hospital. In a few countries it is believed that as long as the woman is followed during pregnancy and assisted by a midwife during birth, transfer between home and hospital, if needed, is uncomplicated. In these countries home birth is an integrated part of maternity care.
It seems increasingly clear that impatience and easy access to many medical procedures at hospital may lead to increased levels of intervention which in turn may lead to new interventions and finally to unnecessary complications. In a planned home birth assisted by an experienced midwife with collaborative medical back up in case transfer should be necessary these drawbacks are avoided while the benefit of access to medical intervention when needed is maintained. Increasingly better observational studies suggest that planned hospital birth is not any safer than planned home birth assisted by an experienced midwife with collaborative medical back up, but may lead to more interventions and more complications.
However, there is no strong evidence from randomised trials to favour either planned hospital birth or planned home birth for low-risk pregnant women. Only two very small randomised trials have been performed. Only one trial (involving 11 women) contributed data to the review. They did not allow conclusions to be drawn except that women living in areas where they are not well informed about home birth may welcome ethically well-designed trials that would ensure an informed choice"
Perinatal mortality and morbidity in a nationwide cohort of 529 688 low-risk planned home and hospital births. BJOG, 15 April 2009 (http://www.homebirthsa.org.au/PDF%20Files/HomeBirthNetherlands.pdf)
Of the 529,688 women in midwife-led care at the onset of labour, 321,307 (60.7%) planned to have a home birth, 163,261 (30.8%) planned to have a hospital birth, and for 45,120 women (8.5%), the intended place of birth was unknown. Women who were planning a home birth were more likely to be aged over 25, to have had previous children and to be of medium-to-high social/economic status than those planning a hospital birth. No significant differences were found in the relative risks of perinatal mortality among the planned home birth or unknown birth place groups, compared to the planned hospital birth group. This was found in analyses both with and without adjustment for the co-founder factors of gestational age, the mother's age, ethnic background, number of previous children and socio-economic status.
Outcomes of planned home birth with registered midwife versus planned hospital birth with midwife or physician,
CMAJ, September 15, 2009 vol. 181 no. 6-7 http://www.cmaj.ca/content/181/6-7/377.abstract
This Canadian study of over 12,000 births showed planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician.
Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America. BMJ 2005; 330:1416 (18 June) http://www.bmj.com/content/330/7505/1416.full
A study of over 5000 births in the USA and Canada. Women who intended at the start of labour to have a home birth with a certified professional midwife had a low rate of intrapartum and neonatal mortality, similar to that in most studies of low risk hospital births in North America. A high degree of safety and maternal satisfaction were reported, and over 87% of mothers and neonates did not require transfer to hospital.An economic analysis found that an uncomplicated vaginal birth in hospital in the United States cost on average three times as much as a similar birth at home with a midwife in an environment where management of birth has become an economic, medical, and industrial enterprise. (2005)
Home superior to hospital birth, British Medical Journal 2005; 330: 1416-22
Among low-risk women, home births assisted by certified midwives achieve similar rates of intrapartum and neonatal mortality as hospital births, with lower rates of medical intervention, reveal Canadian researchers
Choosing between home and hospital delivery. There is no evidence that hospital is the safest place to give birth. British Medical Journal. 2000 Mar 18;320(7237):798
Outcome of planned home and planned hospital births in low risk pregnancies: prospective study in midwifery practices in the Netherlands. BMJ 1996;313:1309-1313 (23 November)
"Conclusions: The outcome of planned home births is at least as good as that of planned hospital births in women at low risk receiving midwifery care in the Netherlands."
Meta-analysis of the safety of home birth. Olsen O. Birth. 1997 Mar;24(1):4-13; discussion 14-6
Homebirth is not more dangerous than in-hospital births. The rate of infant deaths for both groups was similar. No mothers among the 24,000 died.The number of babies born in poor condition (with low APGAR scores) was actually less in the homebirth group. The number of mothers with severe lacerations was less in the homebirth groupThe homebirth group had fewer medical interventions such as induction, syntocinon augmentation of labour, episiotomy, instrumental vaginal birth (like forceps or ventouse), and c/section