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Out-of-hospital birth rates increased during last decade

The number of women giving birth outside a hospital increased by three-quarters in the last decade, and more than two-thirds of those women pay for services themselves.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 22, 2016 at 10:10 AM

COLLEGE PARK, Md., March 22 (UPI) -- While there is greater health risk associated with giving birth outside a hospital, the number of women choosing to do so has increased significantly during the last decade, researchers found in a recent study.

The rate of women giving birth outside hospitals increased by nearly three-quarters, according to researchers at the University of Maryland and Boston University, raising concerns about women's access to proper care during birth.

For the study, published in the journal Birth, researchers reviewed birth certificate data for 47 states and Washington, D.C., between 2004 and 2014, analyzing location and birth trends for the decade.

Out-of-hospital births increased by 72 percent in the United States, from 0.87 percent in 2004 to 1.5 percent in 2014. Among women who gave birth during the time period, those giving birth outside a hospital were half as likely to be obese, 25 percent as likely to smoke, more likely to have graduated from college and more likely to initiate breastfeeding.

Women who gave birth at home were also more likely to self-pay for birth services, as 67.1 percent paid themselves, compared to 31.9 percent at a birth center and 3.4 percent who gave birth at a hospital.

While risk status for women giving birth outside a hospital shows an improvement in care, researchers said making it easier to pay for services could improve access and safety for women choosing to give birth outside a hospital.

"Mandating private insurance and Medicaid coverage for out-of-hospital births could substantially improve access to this birthing option, now requested by an increasing number of women," Dr. Marian MacDorman, a researcher at the University of Maryland, said in a press release.

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