The number of women giving birth outside a hospital has risen dramatically in the past decade. While only 0.79 percent of American births were in homes or birthing centers in 2004, they amounted to 1.28 percent of all births in 2012, and are continuing to climb.
A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine analyzed nearly 80,000 births in Oregon—which, along with Vermont, hosts the highest number of out-of-hospital births. The study found that although the risk of infant death was low, it was more than twice as high when mothers intended out-of-hospital births: in planned out-of-hospital births, 3.9 out of 1000 cases resulted in the baby’s death, whereas in planned hospital births, there were 1.8 deaths out of 1000.
The risk of infant seizures was also greater for out-of-hospital births, as were the chances that the babies would need ventilators or the mothers would need blood transfusions.
But the study showed that intended out-of-hospital births also had several distinct quantifiable advantages over hospital births: out-of-hospital births were much less likely to involve cesarean sections – only 5.3 percent versus 24.7 percent in a hospital. The rates of obstetrical procedures – like inducing labor – were also much lower in planned out-of-hospital births.
The study has been seen as remarkable in its ability to draw together providers of both in-hospital and out-
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