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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah women are choosing home birth at a rate double the national average, and mothers who do so tend to be older and have more education than women who decide to give birth in hospitals, according to a state health department report released this month.
Planned home births made up 2.12 percent of all births in Utah in 2013, according to the report from the Utah Department of Health. The U.S. national rate is less than 1 percent.
Utah has one of the highest overall birth rates in the country, influenced by a Mormon culture that tends toward larger families.
Women who had a planned home birth in Utah were more likely to be 35 or older, have education beyond high school, be married and have other children, according to study author Shaheen Hossain, the health department's data resources program manager.
Interest in home birth has been growing since the 1970s, but has picked up in recent years with movies like "The Business of Being Born" and people posting about home birth on Facebook and Instagram, said Salt Lake City midwife Eve German.
German is a licensed midwife who carries a birthing room full of high-tech medical equipment in duffel bags in her car and quickly transfers women to a hospital if something goes awry.
"There are plans and protocols and training and mechanisms to keep people safe without having to count on things going well and being normal," she said.
Still, German says home birth is not typically a good option for women with more complicated or higher risk pregnancies, like twins or babies in a breech position.
"Midwives are specialists in low-risk births," she said.
Salt Lake City mother Summer Curry, 36, says she had a home birth because she wanted to have her baby without pain medication or medical interventions.
Curry had her second daughter in an inflatable birthing tub Saturday.
She said she liked not having to rush to the hospital, and she gave birth while her 4-year-old daughter played with her grandmother in the living room.
"It was just seamless, and I was comfortable," Curry said.
The report found that in low-risk pregnancies, the health of babies born at home compared generally well with babies born in hospitals, Hossain said, though home-birth babies tended to score somewhat lower on health exams given five minutes after birth.
Exactly what that means in the long run, though, is unclear, and points to the need for more study, especially given the relatively high rate of home births in Utah, Hossain said.
Women who labored at home were less likely to have medical procedures like medicine to jump-start labor or epidurals, though they also tended to have more prolonged labor and water that broke before active labor began.
The report based on birth-certificate data analyzed from 205,486 births among Utah mothers between 2010 and 2013, of which 3,701 were home births. It did not look at birthing centers or babies accidentally born at home.