Non-Hospital Births Reach 37-Year High

In 2012, 1.36 percent of all U.S. births occurred outside of hospitals — either at home, or at a birthing center — up from 1.26 percent in 2011, according to the report.

Home and birthing center births have been on the rise since 2004, and the 2012 level is the highest since 1975, the report said.

Out-of-hospital births were more common among white women compared with other races: About 1 in 50 births to white women, or 2 percent, were outside of a hospital, compared to 0.54 percent of births to Asian or Pacific Islander women, 0.49 percent of births to black women and 0.46 percent of births to Hispanic women.

Northwestern states tended to have the highest percentage of home and birthing center births. More than 3 percent of births took place outside of a hospital in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, and also in Pennsylvania.

Out-of-hospital births had lower rates of some complications, compared with births that took place in hospitals: The percentage of babies born preterm or at a low birth weight was lower among out-of-hospital births compared to hospital births, according to the report, from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

This finding suggests that women who have a low risk of pregnancy complications (such as preterm birth) are making up a relatively larger proportion of out-of-hospital births than hospital births, the researchers said. In other words, women at higher risk for these complications are appropriately giving birth in hospitals instead of in other settings.

The report comes at a time when home vs. hospital birthing is a highly controversial topic.  Recent data, also released by the CDC, found a growing number of infant deaths among babies who are birthed at home.

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Image: Pregnant woman being examined, via Shutterstock

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