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Great birth debate: Home births or hospitals?


Usually, the joy of birth unfolds in a hospital’s maternity department. But a growing number of women are going back to basics and staying at home.

But it’s still rare. Less than 1% of the 4 million births in the U.S. last year happened at home.

Dr. Jill Hechtman, medical director at Tampa Obstetrics, said it’s because it’s too risky. One study found 23% to 37% of women who tried to give birth at home wound up being rushed to the hospital.

“I’m not a big proponent of home birth because I’ve seen the bad things that can happen and I know there’s only minutes when they do happen,” Hechtman said.

Hechtman said the mortality rate for home birth babies is roughly twice as high as hospital births. Thirteen fatalities versus six for every 10,000 in a hospital.  

“We are licensed and regulated by the state,” explained midwife Charlie Rae Young.

She said safety contingencies are in place if there’s a complication. 

“It’s not home birth at all costs,” Young said.

Hechtman still isn’t convinced. 

“I would rather embrace the patients that would consider home births and talk to them and provide them what they want in a hospital setting,” Hechtman said.

But for Sarah Rankin, whose first child, Charlotte, was born at home, there is no doubt about where she will welcome baby No. 2. 

"You’re able to control the vibe of your birth. So she was born in a dark room with silence, instead of beeping and screaming and people rushing around. It was just so serene,” Rankin said.

Doctors and midwives do agree on one thing and that is that some women are better candidates for home deliveries than others.

For example, those without any previous health problems or C-sections and usually women only having one baby and not twins or triplets.

Montana, Vermont and Wyoming are among the top states for home births, and some counties in Florida are among the highest in the nation with 7% of women choosing home birth compared to the national average of only 1%.