Trends and Characteristics of United States Out-of-Hospital Births 2004-2014: New Information on Risk Status and Access to Care

Birth. 2016 Jun;43(2):116-24. doi: 10.1111/birt.12228. Epub 2016 Mar 16.


Background: Out-of-hospital births are increasing in the United States. Our purpose was to examine trends in out-of-hospital births from 2004 to 2014, and to analyze newly available data on risk status and access to care.

Methods: Newly available data from the revised birth certificate for 47 states and Washington, DC, were used to examine out-of-hospital births by characteristics and to compare them with hospital births. Trends from 2004 to 2014 were also examined.

Results: Out-of-hospital births increased by 72 percent, from 0.87 percent of United States births in 2004 to 1.50 percent in 2014. Compared with mothers who had hospital births, those with out-of-hospital births had lower prepregnancy obesity (12.5% vs 25.0%) and smoking (2.8% vs 8.5%) rates, and higher college graduation (39.3% vs 30.0%) and breastfeeding initiation (94.3% vs 80.8%) rates. Among planned home births, 67.1 percent were self-paid, compared with 31.9 percent of birth center and 3.4 percent of hospital births. Vaginal births after cesarean (VBACs) comprised 4.6 percent of planned home births and 1.6 percent of hospital and birth center births. Sociodemographic and medical risk status of out-of-hospital births improved substantially from 2004 to 2014.

Conclusions: Improvements in risk status of out-of-hospital births from 2004 to 2014 suggest that appropriate selection of low-risk women is improving. High rates of self-pay for the costs of out-of-hospital birth suggest serious gaps in insurance coverage, whereas higher-than-average rates of VBAC could reflect lack of access to hospital VBACs. Mandating private insurance and Medicaid coverage could substantially improve access to out-of-hospital births. Improving access to hospital VBACs might reduce the number of out-of-hospital VBACs.

Keywords: access to care; birth center birth; home birth; out-of-hospital birth; risk status.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Certificates
  • Birthing Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Birthing Centers / trends*
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / economics
  • Delivery, Obstetric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Home Childbirth / economics
  • Home Childbirth / statistics & numerical data
  • Home Childbirth / trends*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Class
  • United States
  • Young Adult