Birth Center and Home Births on the Rise

Doula Assisting Mom

A doula provides comfort to a woman who is laboring at a freestanding birth center, Breath of Life, in Largo, FL.

Less than a hundred years ago, most babies were born at home.  The idea of having a baby  in a hospital was preposterous!  Hospitals were for sick people, not for birthing babies.

That philosophy began to shift in the 1930s when hospitals were fast becoming THE place to deliver a baby, attractive for their sterile environment and then cutting edge methods of pain relief (twilight sleep).  By the mid ’40s, more than half of American women were delivering their babies in a hospital, and the number of non-hospital births were soon being measured in single digit percentages.

Though the number of women who choose to birth at home or a birth center remains low, it is steadily trending upward and has been for the last decade.  The Centers for Disease Control’s latest survey shows that the trend toward out-of-hospital births that began in 2004, when .87% of women birthed in a non-hospital setting, isn’t stopping.  In 2011, 1.26% of pregnant women had non-hospital births, and in 2012, it rose to 1.36% across the country, the highest number since 1975.  About a third of those non-hospital births took place in a free-standing birth center, such as Breath of Life, the only accredited birth center in the state of Florida, and Labor of Love, both of which are easily accessible to women in the Tampa Bay area.

In some states, mostly in the northwest, the number of out-of-hospital births is significant, accounting for 2-6% of all births.  Here in Florida, the numbers are about in line with the US averages, but also steadily rising.

Women who are low-risk, those with no known medical complications, are good candidates for an out-of-hospital birth.  The CDC says that with low-risk women, the outcomes are good, with babies at healthy weights, and fewer preterm births.  Birth centers offer the medical expertise of a licensed or certified nurse midwife, and women who birth at home are cared for by licensed midwives as well.  Visit the American Association of Birth Centers to find a birth center near you.