Quick as a wink: The types of mothers likely to give birth before reaching hospital

Kinderling News & Features

Where did you give birth? More likely than not, it was in a hospital with a team of midwives and/or doctors assisting you. But did you ever fear that baby might pop out at an inconvenient moment? Or perhaps en route to your elected hospital? 

While it’s rare, this fear does have some ground, as Professor Hannah Dahlen, from Western Sydney University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, can attest. 

New research from Flinders University and Western University has shown there are a few trends in mums who don’t end up making it to the hospital. Researchers analysed data on over one million recorded births in NSW from 2000-2011, aiming to discover the factors that lead to baby being Born Before Arrival (BBA). 

“In Australia, around 4 in 1,000 births occur before the mother has arrived at hospital,” says Professor Dahlen.

In the examined time period, 1,097,762 births were recorded in NSW. Of these births, 4,945 were recorded as BBA – equating to a rate of 4.6 per 1,000 births. 

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This does not include planned home births attended by midwives, however. Normally, BBA is noted when a mum intends to give birth in hospital, but hasn’t made it in time. 

 “Usually, the baby has been born in the home, on the way to hospital or in an ambulance – without a midwife or doctor in attendance,” Professor Dahlen says. 

So who’s most likely to give birth outside of a hospital?

  • An Australian-born mum having her second baby.
  • A family living in a rural area more than a two-hour drive from a maternity unit.
  • A mum carrying a baby girl of a low birth weight.
  • A mum of lower socioeconomic status.
  • A mum that gives birth in an area that has a high rate of homebirth.

Associate Professor Charlene Thornton, lead researcher on the study based at Flinders University, advises that pregnant women should be familiar with the risk factors which may mean they should get moving quickly when labour starts.

“It is really important that women don’t worry too much about this happening – as the chances are small and most of the time it all turns out well,” says Associate Professor Thornton.

“However, if you expect that you might have difficulty getting to hospital, or you are having your second baby and the first birth was reasonably quick – it might be worth having a bag packed early.” 

Check out the full research at BMJ Open.