Between 1990 and 2004, the number of women who were choosing to give birth at home steadily declined. But in 2005 the trend turned, according to a new report released by the National Center for Health Statistics on Thursday.
The number of home births in the U.S. jumped by 29% from 2004 to 2009. Although home births are still rare - they account for less than 1% of all births - this is a pretty rapid increase, said Marian MacDorman, statistician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Forty, 50 years ago, there was this idea that hospital birth was more modern. Now it's the opposite."
The biggest increase was in non-Hispanic white women. About 1 in 90 births in that segment of the population is now a home birth, according to the report. Home births are most common among women over the age of 35 who have already had at least one child.
The data doesn't tell us why home births have increased, MacDorman said, but she can take a few educated guesses. Cost may be an issue; on average, home births cost about one third less than hospital births. Another reason may be dissatisfaction with the care women in labor receive at a hospital. Doctors and nurses are busy, often caring for more than one patient at a time whereas at home, a woman can have a midwife attending only to her.
In July, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published similar findings, citing further statistics that found 12 percent of home births required medical transfer to a hospital.
Image: Pregnant woman in bed, via Shutterstock.