Home births in US during early pandemic times rise to highest level in 30 years: CDC

The uptick is likely tied to surges of COVID-19 cases early in the pandemic.

November 17, 2022, 5:39 AM

Home births in the United States reached the highest level in three decades during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

The report's findings show the nationwide number of pregnant people giving birth at home rose from 1.26% in 2020 to 1.41% in 2021 -- an increase of 12% and the highest level since at least 1990. That followed a 22% increase from 2019 to 2020.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of U.S. births still happen at a hospital or birthing center, with fewer than 2% of people giving birth at home. Prior to the pandemic, the country's rate of home births hovered around 1%.

The report noted that interest in home births increased due to COVID-19 and "concerns about giving birth in a hospital." The uptick in home births is likely tied to surges of COVID-19 infections. The increase was highest during the first year of the pandemic and less sharp during the second year. The percentage peaked in January 2021 at 1.51%, corresponding to the first major surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the alpha variant.

The rise in U.S. home births from 2020 to 2021 was sharpest among Black women, with an increase of 21%. That followed a 36% increase from 2019 to 2020, according to the report.

For Hispanic women, home births increased 15% from 2020 to 2021, following a 30% increase from 2019 to 2020. For white women, home births increased 10% from 2020 to 2021, following a 21% increase from 2019 to 2020, according to the report.

From 2020 to 2021, the percentage of home births was on the rise in 30 U.S. states, with increases ranging from 8% for Florida to 49% for West Virginia. That followed increases in home births in 40 states from 2019 to 2020, the report said.

Medical associations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists assert that every individual should have the right and opportunity to choose how they want to give birth. But they also say that hospitals and birthing centers are the safest places to give birth because trained professionals can intervene quickly if something goes wrong.

Jade Godbolt, 31, of Dallas, Texas, told The Associated Press that she had her second child at a birthing center in 2021, partly to avoid hospital risks of COVID-19 and to experience a more natural environment. She and her husband then chose a home birth for their third child, born last month. She said there were no complications and that both she and her newborn son are doing well.

"I believed that my body could do what it was made to do and I wanted to be in the comfort of my home to do that,'' Godbolt told the AP.

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