The rate of US homebirths is not rising

Homebirths advocates are touting a reported increase in homebirths from 2004-2006. They ought to look at the actual numbers a bit more closely before they get excited. They don’t seem to realize that the homebirth rate in 2006 is exactly the same as it was in 2000. Homebirths still represent only a minuscule proportion of births in the US.

According to Trends and Characteristics of Home and Other Out-of-Hospital Births in the United States, 1990–2006:

In 2006, there were 38,568 out-of-hospital births in the United States, including 24,970 home births and 10,781 births occurring in a freestanding birthing center. After a gradual decline from 1990 to 2004, the percentage of out-of-hospital births increased by 3% from 0.87% in 2004 to 0.90% in 2005 and 2006. A similar pattern was found for home births. After a gradual decline from 1990 to 2004, the percentage of home births increased by 5% to 0.59% in 2005 and remained steady in 2006… About 61% of home births were delivered by midwives. Among midwife-delivered home births, one-fourth (27%) were delivered by certified nurse midwives, and nearly three-fourths (73%) were delivered by other midwives.

In other words:

From 2004 to 2005 out of hospital births (planned plus unplanned) increased from 0.87% of births to 0.90% of births; there was no increase from 2005-2006. Among births at home from 2004-2005 (planned plus unplanned) there was an increase from 0.56% to 0.59%; there was no increase from 2005-2006. But the homebirth rate dropped from 2000-2004, so the purported “increased” homebirth rate in 2006 is actually unchanged from the homebirth rate in 2000.

addendum: This graph makes it easier to see what happened.

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