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Health department data indicates an increase in out-of-hospital births in Utah

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Posted at 10:09 PM, Jan 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-12 00:09:41-05

SALT LAKE CITY – A new study conducted by the Utah Department of Health indicates out-of-hospital births are an increasing trend in Utah.

Heather Johnston is a licensed direct-entry midwife, and she spoke about the trend toward more births taking place outside of the hospital.

“It very much draws upon physiologic care, understanding that the birth process is a normal process, the intervention should only be as called for, and to allow the woman to be the director of her birth and her pregnancy experience,” she said.

The Utah Department of Health said the rate of total out-of-hospital births has gone from 1 percent to 2 percent since 1990. After noticing the increase, they decided to examine the trend more closely.

Johnston said: "Direct entry midwives, both licensed and unlicensed midwives, certified midwives and a physician at the U of U, we got together and we discussed--looked at the data and tried to compile a report of: What's going on in Utah? What is the picture that we're seeing?”

Data from the study indicates that between 2010 and 2012, nearly 140,000 babies were born in hospitals, and about 3,700 were born outside of hospitals.

Lois Bloebaum, Utah Department of Health, spoke about the increase.

“We think anecdotally that some of it is related to cost,” she said. “We also think that, I think the main reason probably is that women are preferring non-medicalized births.”

Some midwives in Utah are registered nurses and complete graduate level training. Others are called licensed direct entry midwives, and they receive training and licensing from the state.

But Bloebaum said many women don’t use licensed midwives.

“We have the largest proportion of midwives who deliver out of hospital births in Utah [who] are unlicensed, which means that they’ve had no formal training and no licensing to practice.”

The study also found a need for more protocols to transport infants who become high-risk in home-birth settings.

“We want to develop protocols and also communication tools for midwives to use with health care providers in the hospital, when that transfer becomes necessary,” Bloebaum said.

Health department officials said they found infants in home births have double the rate of mortality than those in hospital births. However, they said they are still assessing the study and said they will continue to get more definitive numbers as they move forward.