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Why is Home Birth on the Rise?

January 31, 2012

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For most of our great-grandmothers, and for many women throughout the world still, giving birth at home was not a choice motivated by emotional, political, or moral conviction – it was simply the only option. Fast-forward to present-day United States, and most women are lucky enough to receive close medical supervision throughout their entire pregnancy and delivery. The vast majority of women give birth in hospitals with an OB/GYN, and throughout the 1990s, the number of home births steadily declined.

In an interesting reversal of trends, a new report from the CDC reveals that the rate of home births in the United States is now on the rise. Though the actual number is still proportionately very small – home births account for less than 1% of all births – the 30% jump between 2004 and 2009 is substantial.

So why the increase? The CDC data doesn’t say, but it seems to have a lot to do with growing concern about personal choice. Unlike our great-grandmothers, women in Western countries today do have options as to where and how they give birth, and there may be new factors making hospital births less attractive.

Lead report author Marian MacDorman speculates, “A lot of women really like the idea of home birth because they want a lower-intervention birth. A lot of women are worried about higher C-section rates and other types of intervention that happen once you go to the hospital.” This concern is not unfounded – in 2007, the rate of C-sections reached an all-time high of 32%. Many doctors agree that the operation is being performed way too often and in situations where it’s needlessly exposing both mother and child to serious risks.

The issue of safety, of course, is the number one objection to home births. If there’s a problem during or after delivery, mother and child don’t have immediate access to life-saving equipment and medication. Most midwives, however, will only work with women who have no serious medical problems or obstetrical complications, and according to the report, home births have a lower risk profile with fewer babies born premature.

Ultimately, like so many other highly personal aspects of motherhood and parenting, it’s essential for people to do their own research and make decisions based on what’s appropriate to their needs.

Check out the video below for ways to explore your options:

What do you think about the increase in home births?