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More U.S. women delivering babies at home or birth centers

Staff writer |
More women in the United States are choosing to deliver their babies at home or in birth centers, a new study indicates.

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In 2014, nearly 60,000 babies were born outside a hospital, the researchers said. While that is still a small minority of all births, the trend has been gathering steam in the last decade, the study authors added.

In 2004, less than 1 percent of U.S. births occurred out of hospitals, said report author Marian MacDorman. She is a research professor at the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland, in College Park.

By 2014, the number of out-of-hospital births had increased to 1.5 percent, the study found.

Women who opted for home or birth centers to deliver their babies tended to have low-risk pregnancies, MacDorman said.

The researchers looked at birth certificate data over the years from 47 states and the District of Columbia. MacDorman's team found both geographic variation and other differences between mothers who went to the hospital and those who chose to give birth at home or in a birth center.

The Pacific Northwest had the highest rate of out-of-hospital births, while the deep South had the lowest. Mothers who gave birth at home were half as likely to be obese before getting pregnant, less likely to smoke and more likely to plan on breast-feeding. They were also more likely to be college graduates, the researchers said.

Nearly 79 percent of those who planned home births and over 92 percent who opted for birth centers had a midwife help deliver the babies. Only 8 percent of hospital births had midwives deliver the babies, the findings showed.

To make home births safer, MacDorman said women should be sure they are at low-risk, have a properly trained midwife, and be sure the midwife has relationships with doctors and hospitals so the mother and baby can be transferred if necessary.

A low-risk woman would have no high blood pressure, no diabetes or other chronic conditions, MacDorman said.

"About 10 to 15 percent of women who labor at home end up having to go to the hospital," she noted.

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