OBJECTIVE: To estimate the differences in the characteristics of mothers having planned and unplanned home births that occurred at home in a 19-state reporting area in the United States in 2006.
METHODS: Data are from the 2006 U.S. vital statistics natality file. Information on whether a home birth was planned or unplanned was available from 19 states, representing 49% of all home births nationally. Data were examined by maternal age, race or ethnicity, education, marital status, live birth order, birthplace of mother, gestational age, prenatal care, smoking status, state, population of county of residence, and birth attendant. We could not identify planned home births that resulted in a transfer to the hospital.
RESULTS: Of the 11,787 home births with planning status recorded in the 19 states studied here, 9,810 (83.2%) were identified as planned home births. The proportion of all births that occurred at home that were planned varied from 54% to 98% across states. Unplanned home births are more likely to involve mothers who are non-white, younger, unmarried, foreign-born, smokers, not college-educated, and with no prenatal care. Unplanned home births are also more likely to be preterm and to be attended by someone who is neither a doctor nor a midwife and is listed as either “other” or “unknown.”
CONCLUSION: Planned and unplanned home births differ substantially in characteristics, and distinctions need to be drawn between the two in subsequent analyses.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: III