Out-of-hospital births have increased dramatically over the past decade, according to a new study out of the University of Maryland and Boston University, and published in the journal Birth. In fact, the number of women who choose to deliver their babies outside a hospital setting has grown by nearly three-quarters.
Researchers looked at birth certificates between 2004 and 2014 from 47 states and Washington, D.C. in an effort to understand birth trends over the past decade. The number of women who birthed their babies outside hospital walls ballooned by 72 percent (that number includes births at birthing centers).
Interestingly, despite the risks of home births, women who chose them were less likely to be obese, smoke, and more likely to be highly educated. These mamas were also more likely to initiate breastfeeding. So clearly, health-conscious, educated women are choosing home birth in strong numbers.
But another interesting finding that emerged from this research is that women who birthed their babies at home were most likely to pay for services themselves; 67.1 percent did. About 32 percent paid at a birth center, while only 3.4 percent paid themselves if they chose a hospital birth. Could cost be a factor in determining where to give birth for many women?
For those who choose to birth outside a hospital, regulating care offered by doulas and midwives may help improve outcomes, says Dr. Marian MacDorman, a researcher at the University of Maryland. "Mandating private insurance and Medicaid coverage for out-of-hospital births could substantially improve access to this birthing option, now requested by an increasing number of women."
This makes sense, given the clear message women are sending: Home birth is a trend that is here to stay.
But doctors are concerned, given that when a delivery takes place at home, there is an increased risk for complications for both mom and baby. Home birth advocates have long argued against this assertion, and it's worth noting a recent study found that for low-risk pregnancies, home birth is just as safe as a hospital birth. And even ACOG notes that while a hospital or birthing center is the safest place to have a baby, it respects a woman's right to birth at home.
So, have you given birth at home? Would you?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.