Recent Trends in Out-of-Hospital Births in the United States

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Although out-of-hospital births are still relatively rare in the United States, it is important to monitor trends in these births, as they can affect patterns of facility usage, clinician training, and resource allocation, as well as health care costs. Trends and characteristics of home and birth center births are analyzed to more completely profile contemporary out-of-hospital births in the United States.


National birth certificate data were used to examine a recent increase in out-of-hospital births.


After a gradual decline from 1990 to 2004, the number of out-of-hospital births increased from 35,578 in 2004 to 47,028 in 2010. In 2010, 1 in 85 US infants (1.18%) was born outside a hospital; about two-thirds of these were born at home, and most of the rest were born in birth centers. The proportion of home births increased by 41%, from 0.56% in 2004 to 0.79% in 2010, with 10% of that increase occurring in the last year. The proportion of birth center births increased by 43%, from 0.23% in 2004 to 0.33% in 2010, with 14% of the increase in the last year. About 90% of the total increase in out-of hospital births from 2004 to 2010 was a result of increases among non-Hispanic white women, and 1 in 57 births to non-Hispanic white women (1.75%) in 2010 was an out-of-hospital birth. Most home and birth center births were attended by midwives.


Home and birth center births in the United States are increasing, and the rate of out-of-hospital births is now at the highest level since 1978. There has been a decline in the risk profile of out-of-hospital births, with a smaller proportion of out-of-hospital births in 2010 than in 2004 occurring to adolescents and unmarried women and fewer preterm, low-birth-weight, and multiple births.

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