FRIDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- The number of home births in
the United States has jumped 20 percent in recent years, a new
government study shows.
Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention evaluated data from birth certificates for more than 4
million live births registered in the United States in 2008 and in
The investigators found that 28,357 babies were born at home in
2008, representing 0.67 percent of total births. That was the
highest proportion of home births since 1990.
"The percentage of home births in the U.S. declined slowly from 1990-2004, so the recent increase is a surprise in that it reverses a longstanding trend," said Marian MacDorman, a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the CDC.
She called the increase "pretty large" for a four-year
The trend was driven mainly by a 28 percent spike in home births
by non-Hispanic white women, the researchers found. For this group,
more than 1 percent of all births now occur at home.
The home births are typically attended by a certified
nurse-midwife, a certified midwife or a non-certified midwife. Less
often, a physician is present, the report indicated.
The risk profile for home births has declined, the study authors
noted. They saw declines in the percentage of babies born at home
who are delivered early or at low birth weight or born to teen or
The percentage of home births varies among states, with Montana
having the highest, at 2.18 percent. Twenty-seven states had
significant increases in the percentage of home births between 2004
Women may prefer a home birth for many reasons, including a
desire for a "low-intervention" birth, the authors noted in the
report. Cost may also weigh in, with home births typically costing
one-third of what hospital births do.
However, the controversy about the safety of home birth
continues in the United States. "There have been some large studies
done in other countries [such as the Netherlands] that found that
home births were as safe as hospital births for low-risk women,"
However, she also cited a study published last year in the
American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, which found that home birth is linked with less medical intervention, as expected, but also with a tripling of the newborn death rate.
However, she noted, the research methods used for that study
were questioned after the report was published.
Currently, the American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists and the American Medical Association discourage home
births in their policy statements, according to information in the
However, the World Health Organization, the American College of
Nurse-Midwives, the American Public Health Association and the
National Perinatal Association all support home and out-of-hospital
birth options for low-risk women, the report noted.
MacDorman isn't sure what is behind the trend.
However, Dr. Mary L. Rosser, an assistant professor of
obstetrics and gynecology and women's health at Montefiore Medical
Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, said
part of the trend may be Hollywood-driven.
"When they see celebrities doing it, they think 'Oh, this is a great idea,'" Rosser said.
According to media reports, celebrities including Cindy
Crawford, Ricki Lake and others have chosen to give birth at
Rosser also believes women who want control of their childbirth
experience may be drawn to home births. However, she said, she is
"not a fan of them."
When a patient asks her about it, she tells them that the
studies conducted on the safety of home births were conducted on
healthy, low-risk women.
"I emphasize to people there is a two- to threefold increased risk of neonatal mortality," Rosser said, citing research.
Even in low-risk pregnancies, she noted, things can go wrong.
"You cannot predict postpartum hemorrhage," Rosser said.
To learn more about home births, visit the
American Pregnancy Association.
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