Women who plan home births recover more rapidly from childbirth, but there is a higher risk of their child dying, an international study suggests.
US analysis of more than 500,000 births in North America and Europe found death rates for babies in planned home births were double that of those in planned hospital births.
But the risk was still low, at 0.2%.
UK doctors said the evidence needed to be taken into account, but a midwives’ body questioned its relevance.
The research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, examined studies on the relative safety of planned home and hospital births from around the world.
Researchers looked at data from nearly 350,000 planned home births and more than 200,000 planned hospital deliveries.
Crucially, it looked at where the woman had planned to give birth, rather than the actual birthplace.
The researchers argued that the safety of home births may have previously been overplayed by the fact that when there are complications and a woman is rushed to hospital, any adverse outcome is recorded as a hospital birth.
Rates of home birth vary across the developed world. In the Netherlands a third of women deliver at home, while in the US around one in 200 women do so.