Home births rose 20 percent over four years, government figures show, reflecting what experts say is a small subculture among white women toward natural birth, The Associated Press reports.
Fewer than 1 percent of U.S. births occur at home. But the proportion is clearly going up, study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. The new figures are for 2004 to 2008. Home births had been declining from 1990 to 2004.
The increase was driven by white women - one in 98 had their babies at home in 2008, the most recent year for which the statistics were available.
Only about one in 357 black women give birth at home, and just one in 500 Hispanic women do.
"I think there's more of a natural birth subculture going on with white women -- an interest in a low-intervention birth in a familiar setting," said the lead author, Marian MacDorman of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
For all races combined, about 1 in 143 births were at home in 2008, up from 1 in 179 in 2004.
Geographically, 27 states had significant increases during those four years. Montana, Vermont and Oregon had the most home births -- about 1 in 50 births were at home in those states.
Alaska's rate was nearly as high, and it's clear that some home births occur because women are in remote locations and are not able to get to hospitals in time for delivery.
The increase is notable because doctors groups have been increasingly vocal about opposing home births.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has for years warned against home births, arguing they can be unsafe, especially if the mother has high-risk medical conditions, if the attendant is inadequately trained or if there's no quick way to get mother and child to a hospital if something goes awry.