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Home Birth Up 29% Since 2004, Why Is That?

According to the CDC, the number of home births in the US went up 29% between 2004 and 2009. The number is still low– it went form 0.56% of all births to 0.72 %, but that’s still almost 30,000 births.

“The increase has been driven by non-Hispanic white women,” said the author of the report Marian MacDorman. “For non-Hispanic white women, home births increased 36 %.”

Why is this happening?

“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,” MacDorman said.

Also of note: For white women, 1-90 births took place at home in 2009. Non-white women were much less likely to give birth at home. Women over 35, with low risk pregnancy and other children were also more likely to give birth at home. (This makes sense given that this population make the best candidates for out-of-hospital births.) There were some big regional differences. In 2009, only 0.2 % of births in D.C. and Louisiana took place at home but 2 % of births in Oregon and 2.6 % in Montana.

When I gave birth in 2004, I didn’t know home birth was a real option in NYC. By the time I was pregnant in 2007 with my second, it was starting to come up more and more. I had two friends who’d had their second babies at home. One woman was a novelist, the other an employment lawyer– both had read a ton before deciding to give birth at home. My decision to give it a shot was, in the final hour, based on research: I was a low risk, second pregnancy (after an uneventful first); I had an enormously experienced certified nurse midwife and live exactly one block from a major city hospital. But what got me to that decision was a comfort with the idea that came from knowing about it personally. Not just from a book or a movie.

My comfort came from my childhood (my mother gave birth to my younger siblings at home in the UK with a doctor and midwife present and it was considered a perfectly normal thing to do), and from my friends. Sitting down with these women I related to and trusted and hearing about how it all played out really helped me.

They were funny for one thing. They were funny about how painful it was and some of the logistics involved. They were also honest about their concerns– about birth at home and birth in general. And they took it all seriously. They talked me through the pros and cons, risks and benefits. They knew from their own experience that this is a decision no women should be “talked into.”

My birth at home was as magnificent as my first birth in the hospital. They were very different but equally profound. My home birth was fast and the recovery was shockingly easy. It was gruesomely painful and I howled to the moon, but that part only lasted 30-45 minutes. Most of the labor consisted of me reading a novel in bed while cold wind blew against the window and my older son played happily with his grandparents in the other room. I was never scared or overwhelmed. I just felt very focused on getting through each contraction. Being in the water was an incredible relief. And being able to snuggle up with my baby, husband and ecstatic three-year old afterward was so nice I’ll never forget it.

I’m definitely a part of this new CDC statistic– in 2004 I gave birth in a hospital, in 2007 I was at home; I’m a low-risk, non-Hispanic white women over 35…  So I wanted to share my story and my reasoning and my influences.

What’s made the biggest impact on your decision about where and with whom to give birth? Friends, media, research, books, your own mother, your previous experience with birth/hospitals/doctors?

I’m curious to know how our ideas about what is safe and what is normal are shaped.

 

 

photo: Chris&Jenny/Flickr

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