Home births declined from 1990 to 2004, but jumped by 29% from 2004 to 2009. Even with this increase, the overall percentage of women giving birth at home remains low. In 2004, 0.56% of births occurred at home, and 0.72% in 2009.
“This is a fairly rapid increase over five years and it is fairly widespread, with increases in almost all states,” says researcher Marian F. MacDorman, PhD. She is a statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Md.
Montana and Oregon had the highest percentage of home births in 2009. The lowest rates were seen in Louisiana and Washington, D.C. “It seems like the beginning of a trend,” MacDorman says. The findings appear in the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association do not support planned home births because they find the practice risky.
Why the uptick?
The new study did not look at why more women are choosing home births. “Some women are fed up with the medicalization of child birth, with the rise in C-section, and inductions of labor, and all the stuff they do,” MacDorman says.
Some may credit Ricki Lake. The former talk show host and Dancing With the Stars contestant got many people to think and talk about home births in her documentary, The Business of Being Born, and its follow-up DVD series, More Business of Being Born.
Lake chose, and filmed, the home birth of her son during the first movie.
According to the new study, home births are more common among non-Hispanic white women, women aged 35 and older, and women who have had several children previously. About one in every 90 births for non-Hispanic white women occurs at home. The percentage of home births is three to five times higher than for other racial and ethnic groups. In fact, non-Hispanic white women in large part drove the increase in home births from 2004 to 2009.
In 2009, most home births (62%) involved midwives. Just 5% of home births were attended by doctors, and 33% involved someone else, such as a family member or an emergency medical technician.
Some home births are planned. Others may occur in an emergency situation, such as when the woman was unable to get to the hospital in time. This affects who was present. Only certain states differentiate whether the home birth was planned or not on a birth certificate.
Most women who choose home births are considered at low risk for pregnancy-related complications. Midwives and others may be getting better at determining which women can safely chose a home birth, MacDorman says.