Trends in out-of-hospital births in the United States, 1990-2012

NCHS Data Brief. 2014 Mar;(144):1-8.


Although still relatively rare, out-of-hospital births have accounted for a growing share of U.S. births since 2004. In 2012, 1.36% of U.S. births were born outside a hospital, up from 1.26% in 2011 and 0.87% in 2004. The 2012 level is the highest level since 1975. Most of the total increase in out-of-hospital births from 2004–2012 was a result of the increase among non-Hispanic white women, and by 2012, 1 in 49 births to non-Hispanic white women (2.05%) occurred outside a hospital. In 2012, six states had 3%–6% of their births occur outside a hospital. For an additional five states, between 2% and 3% of their births were out-of-hospital births. Variations in the percentages of out-of-hospital births by state may be influenced by differences in state laws pertaining to midwifery practice or out-of-hospital births, as well as by the availability of a nearby birthing center. The number of U.S. birthing centers increased from 170 in 2004 to 195 in 2010 and to 248 in January 2013; 13 states still did not have a birthing center in the most recent period. Compared with hospital births, home and birthing center births tended to have lower risk profiles, with fewer births to teen mothers and fewer preterm, low birthweight, and multiple births. From 2004 through 2012, there was a decline in the risk profile of out-of-hospital births, with fewer births in 2012 than in 2004 to teen and older mothers and fewer preterm and low birthweight births. The lower risk profile of out-of-hospital than hospital births suggests that appropriate selection of low-risk women as candidates for out-of-hospital birth is occurring. Although not representative of all U.S. births, 88% of home births in a 36-state reporting area (comprising 71% of U.S. births) were planned in 2012. Unplanned home births are more likely than planned home births to be born preterm and at low birthweight.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birthing Centers / trends*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / trends*
  • Female
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Midwifery
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Multiple / statistics & numerical data
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • United States
  • Young Adult