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Home births are making a comeback

Home birth is making a marked resurgence in the United States, according to data released Thursday by the federal government.

A century ago, most births took place at home. But the rate fell steadily and slipped to less than 1% of all births by 1969 and just over 0.5% in 2004.

Though still not common, home births have risen 29% from 2004 to 2009, according to the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, 0.72% of all births took place at home. The trend is particularly noteworthy among white women. Home births among that group rose 36% since 2004 and accounted for more than 1% of all births in 2009.

The northwestern part of the country has the strongest trend in home births -- 2% in Oregon and 2.6% in Montana. The sheer lack of transportation in rural areas may play a significant role in home births in some areas, the authors of the report stated. Cost might be a factor too, because home births are about one-third the cost of hospital births.

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Most of the home births in 2009 were attended by midwives (62%), the report said. Only 5% of home births were attended by doctors.

Home births tend to be lower-risk -- not because birthing at home is safer but because typically only healthy, low-risk women opt to try a home birth. The rate of preterm home births in 2009 was 6% compared with a 12% rate in hospitals. Only 4% of home-birth babies were low birthweight.

The report was released from the National Center for Health Statistics.

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