ATLANTA - Home births have risen to their highest level in about four decades but are still only a fraction of all births, according to a new government report released Tuesday.
A little more than 1 percent of U.S. births occur at home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Specialists say they remain largely a phenomenon of white women and those who live in remote areas.
In the 20th century, births shifted from homes to hospitals. Out-of-hospital deliveries were down to 1 percent by 1969.
But around 2004, they began inching up again and reached about 1.36 percent in 2012. That translates to about 35,000 births in homes and another 16,000 in freestanding, birthing centers
While more birthing centers have opened, perhaps the main driver was an increase in out-of-hospital births involving white mothers, said T.J. Mathews, one of the authors of the new report.
The proportion of white moms delivering outside hospitals rose to 1 in 49. For Hispanic, black and Asian mothers, it is around 1 in 200.
Analysts believe there's been a culture shift among many white women, who question high rates of cesarean sections in hospitals and have come to think of home births with midwives as a preferable alternative.
"They are having conversations about it and influencing each other," said Mathews, a CDC demographer.
Alaska had the most out-of-hospital births - about 1 in 17. Women in remote locations may not able to get to hospitals in time for delivery.