Home births making a comeback

Jan 26 2012 - 6:29pm

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Home birth is making a marked resurgence in the United States, according to data released Thursday by the federal government.
Home birth is making a marked resurgence in the United States, according to data released Thursday by the federal government.

Home birth is making a marked resurgence in the United States, according to data released Thursday by the federal government.

A century ago, most births took place at home. But the rate fell steadily and slipped to less than 1 percent of all births by 1969 and just over 0.5 percent in 2004.

Though still not common, home births have risen 29 percent from 2004 to 2009, according to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, 0.72 percent of all births took place at home. The trend is particularly noteworthy among white women. Home births among that group rose 36 percent since 2004 and accounted for more than 1% of all births in 2009.

The northwestern part of the country has the strongest trend in home births -- 2 percent in Oregon and 2.6 percent in Montana. The sheer lack of transportation in rural areas may play a significant role in home births in some areas, the authors of the report stated. Cost might be a factor too, because home births are about one-third the cost of hospital births.

Most of the home births in 2009 were attended by midwives (62 percent), the report said. Only 5 percent of home births were attended by doctors.

Home births tend to be lower-risk -- not because birthing at home is safer but because typically only healthy, low-risk women opt to try a home birth. The rate of preterm home births in 2009 was 6 percent compared with a 12 percent rate in hospitals. Only 4 percent of home-birth babies were low birthweight.

The report was released from the National Center for Health Statistics.

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