Whether it's the economy, lack of health care or a desire to not deliver in a hospital bed, more and more women are opting to have their babies at home.
According to a new National Vital Statistics Report, the percentage of U.S. babies born outside a hospital was .9 percent in 2005 and 2006, up from .87 percent in 2004. That translates to 38,568 births occurring outside a hospital -- 24,970 at home and 10,781 in free-standing birth centers.
The study points out, though, that this is a far cry from decades ago. In 1940, 44 percent of all babies were born at home. One in six home births in 2006 were unplanned, however. The study says these were often emergency situations.
So why the increase? The study examined the geographic location of these births. Vermont and Montana had higher instances of home births, while Louisiana and Nebraska had lower. Conditions such as weather, rural proximity to a hospital and attitudes toward home births could also have played a role. We wonder if the economic crisis that hit the country also contributed. If a mother doesn't have access to health care, what are her options?
And while midwives facilitated a majority of these births, more than a third of babies born at home were delivered by "other" birth attendants, such as family members, paramedics or taxi drivers.
"Could more women deliver at home? Absolutely," says report coauthor Eugene Declercq, a professor of maternal and child health at Boston University. The current trend promoting home birth, spearheaded by people such as actress Ricki Lake, encourages mothers to empower themselves and give birth at home.
As it stands now, the numbers of home births in the U.S. are on a par with other industrialized countries in the world -- except for the Netherlands, where about 30 percent of births occur at home.