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Home Births on the Rise in the U.S.

Increase in Home Births Comes as Debate Over Safety Intensifies
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Why More Women Are Giving Birth at Home

Researchers who have watched the trend believe it may signal a growing desire among expectant mothers to have more control over the kinds of procedures that are used to deliver the baby, particularly cesarean sections.

"Our study is based on birth certificates, so I don't have direct data on why, but certainly we've seen a lot of discussion and interest recently in the birthing process," says study researcher Marian F. MacDorman, PhD, a statistician in reproductive health at the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Md.

"For example, a lot of concern about the rising C-section rate, rising medical interventions, induction of labor, episiotomy, and so forth," MacDorman tells WebMD.

"I think there's a certain group of women who maybe feel nervous about going to the hospital and maybe having a C-section they didn't want or something like that," she says.

Other experts say that rings true.

"They are people who have had control over their lives, so they want control over this," says Annette E. Fineberg, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist in the department of women's health at the Sutter West Medical Group, in Davis, Calif.

Feinberg recently wrote a commentary for Obstetrics & Gynecology on the rise in home births, but she was not involved in the study.

She says many of her patients have voiced concerns about a hospital birth experience, hoping they'll have a better chance of delivering a baby vaginally if they give birth at home.

Sometimes, they're right, she says.

Home Births and C-Sections

"There is currently a cesarean epidemic in the United States," says Aaron Caughey, MD, PhD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the center for women's health at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland.

Caughey is researching home births but was not involved in the current study.

He points to the numbers: In 1996, 21% of births were C-sections, but by 2009, that number was 32%, a 50% increase, "making cesarean delivery the most common surgery that a woman under the age of 50 will have."

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