(HealthDay News) — The percentage of out-of-hospital births is continuing to increase, and in 2012 these births had a lower risk profile than hospital births, according to a March data brief published by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Marian F. MacDorman, PhD, from the NCHS in Hyattsville, MD, and colleagues examined trends and characteristics of out-of-hospital births from 1990–2012, including home and birthing center births.

The researchers found that, from 2011–2012, the percentage of out-of-hospital births increased from 1.26 to 1.36%, continuing the increasing trend which started in 2004. The percentage of out-of-hospital births varied with race/ethnicity, from 2.05% of births to non-Hispanic white women to 0.46% for Hispanic women. In 2012, 3–6% of births in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington were out-of-hospital births, while the lowest percentages were seen in Rhode Island (0.33%), Mississippi (0.38%), and Alabama (0.39%). The risk profile of out-of-hospital births was lower than that of hospital births in 2012, with fewer preterm, low birth weight, and multiple births, and fewer births to teenage mothers.

“Although still relatively rare, out-of-hospital births have accounted for a growing share of U.S. births since 2004,” the authors write. “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.”

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