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Some Facts About Childbirth in the US

Updated 2015

  • Childbirth comprises 1/7th of all health care expenditures in the U.S.
  • The U.S. spends more per birth than any other country, and yet, has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the industrialized world
  • In Western countries with better infant outcomes, midwives catch over 70% of babies. In the US 1.5% of babies are born at home with a certified midwife
  • African American babies are two to three times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts. The mortality rate for African American mothers is four times higher than for whites
  • It has been shown in several studies that home birth and birth center births attended by certified midwives have just as good or better outcomes than births in U.S. hospitals
  • Today more than one out of every five U.S. babies (33%) is born by cesarian section, despite the 15% benchmark set by Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 1990
  • Well over half of all American births involve some type of surgical or operative procedure - cesarian section, episiotomy, vacuum extractor, and forceps
  • A variety of technologies have become standard procedures in American births without being studied conclusively for efficacy or risk. For example, electronic fetal monitoring is used in nearly all births, even though medical trials have shown it increases the likelihood of a cesarian section and does not improve fetal outcomes in low-risk women. Doctors cite custom and the threat of lawsuits as reasons 
  • Experts suggest that between $16 and $23 billion a year could be saved in health care costs by developing midwives care, de medicalizing childbirth, and encouraging breastfeeding
  • The American medical community has not supported midwifery as an independent profession despite its exemplary track record and has a long and vocal history of opposition