Is it the Ricki Lake effect? Home births rose 20 percent over four years, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who recently published their study in the medical journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care. The rise, during 2004 to 2008, is particularly remarkable given that home births had been declining in popularity since 1990, and doctors groups have been ever more vocal in their opposition to home birth.
Experts say the rise is reflective of a small subset of white women interested in natural birth, reports the Associated Press. Among white women, 1 in 98 had their babies at home in 2008, while the numbers for black and Hispanic women were about 1 in 357 and 1 in 500, respectively. The study’s lead author, Marian MacDorman of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics said, "I think there's more of a natural birth subculture going on with white women—an interest in a low-intervention birth in a familiar setting."
Plus: Is Home Birth for You?
Opposition to home birth continues from medical groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who argue that home births can be unsafe, especially for moms with high-risk medical conditions, if the family lives far from a hospital (meaning longer transit time in an emergency), or if the birth attendant is insufficiently trained. Proponents of home birth argue that hospitals sometimes introduce unnecessary medical interventions and pose a far greater threat of infection. Studies offer mixed conclusions as to its safety.
Plus: Should You Use a Midwife?
While the number of hospital births continues to dwarf the number of home births (fewer than 1 percent of births in the U.S. take place at home), home births rose across a wide geographic region, including 27 states that reported significant increases during that four-year period. Montana, Vermont, and Oregon reported the greatest number of home births, accounting for about 2 to 3 percent of births in those states. In fact, earlier this week, the governor of Vermont signed a bill into law that will soon require private health insurers to cover the services of midwives who attend home births, making Vermont one of just a few states with similar laws, including New York, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. The law will make home birth an option for more women in Vermont, now that they won’t have to choose a hospital birth solely for reasons of insurance reimbursement.
Do you know anyone who’s had a home birth? Would you consider giving birth at home?