Your Health

Home Births Rise, Mostly By Choice

The mad dash to the hospital after a pregnant woman's water breaks has become pretty well established in the birthing lore of the United States. But there's been an uptick in births at home, suggesting that an alternative to childbirth in hospitals is getting some traction.

A mother holds here newborn. i

Giving birth at home is gaining ground. iStockphoto.com hide caption

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A mother holds here newborn.

Giving birth at home is gaining ground.

iStockphoto.com

There was a five percent increase in out-of-hospital births in 2005, says an analysis just out from the National Center for Health Statistics. The proportion of births outside hospitals held steady in 2006. That year, more than 38,000 babies (of more than 4 million babies born) came into the world somewhere other than a hospital.

The medical establishment doesn't endorse skipping the hospital. "Despite the fact that the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association say it's not a good idea," says statistician Marian MacDorman who wrote the report. "Some women still choose home births and prefer them."

The American Public Health Association, the World Health Organization, and, as you might expect, the American College of Nurse Midwives, all support home and out-of-hospital births for low-risk women.

Sixty-one percent of non-hospital births are supervised by midwives, most often at home but also at birthing centers that aren't attached to a hospital.

Most women who opt for home births made a conscious choice about it. Birth certificates in about half the states lets parents note whether a home birth was planned. They were 83 percent of the time.

Where is home birth most popular? With more than 2 percent of babies born at home, Montana and Vermont had the highest rates. Louisiana and Nebraska were the lowest at 0.2 percent.

Some of the states with big increase: Alabama, California, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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