Navigating the world of childbirth, particularly hospital births, can be complex. With over 98% of births in the U.S. occurring in hospitals, understanding the nuances, from C-section rates to natural birthing trends, is crucial (1).
Whether you’re exploring hospital births, their yearly statistics, or comparing them with out-of-hospital births, this article serves as your comprehensive guide.
We’ve compiled 25 key hospital birth statistics and facts, offering data to inform your decision and ensure you’re well-versed in every aspect of hospital childbirth. Stay informed and make the best choice for your maternity care with our insightful facts.
Key Facts About Hospital Births
Below are five of the most interesting hospital birthing statistics and facts:
- There are 3.6 million hospital births annually, the lowest number since 1981.
- Ninety-eight point four percent of women give birth in hospitals in the U.S.
- The average cost of a hospital birth in 2022 was $18,865.
- Thirty-two point one percent of live births are delivered by c-section in a hospital.
- Hospital births are safer for babies compared to home births, as they have a lower infant mortality rate.
25 Hospital Birth Statistics and Facts
Giving birth at a hospital is relatively standard in most countries, especially in more developed places. We will share 25 incredible facts about birthing at hospitals across the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Hospital Birth Statistics and Facts Each Year
Examining hospital birth statistics by year and by country unveils a dynamic landscape. These statistics, which fluctuate month by month, offer a comprehensive view of global and national trends in hospital deliveries. While individual data will vary by hospital, the statistics provided here offer a general overview of these patterns.
- Fewer hospital births in the U.S.: In 2019, there were 3.6 million hospital births in the U.S., the lowest amount since 1981 (2). The peak was in 2007, with 4.12 million hospital births. This may be due to fewer people having babies or more people choosing a home birth.
- Hospital birth trends in England and Wales: In England and Wales, the hospital birth numbers are slowly decreasing, but so are the home birth numbers. In 2021, there were over 608,000 hospital births (3). This is higher than the amount in 2020 but lower than the previous eleven years. The peak was in 2012, with over 711,000 hospital births.
- Hospital births in Canada: The number of hospital births in Canada has decreased steadily from 2005 to 2015 (4). It went from 98.9 percent of all births to 97.9. There was also a significant decrease in hospital births during the pandemic.
- Hospital birth rates in the Netherlands: The Netherlands has a low hospital birth rate compared to other countries, with approximately only 83.7 percent of births occurring outside of the home (5). In 1965, only about 33 percent of births took place at a hospital (6).
- Hospital birth rate in Finland: In Finland, the hospital and facility birth rate increased from 98.8 percent in 1990 to 100 percent in 2018 (7).
- China hospital rate: The rate of hospital births in China increased from 50.6 percent in 1990 to 99.9 percent in 2018.
Facts About Hospital Births in the U.S.
The U.S. is one of the most developed countries in the world, but they have some surprising facts when it comes to hospital deliveries. Let’s look at seven facts about giving birth in hospitals in the U.S.
- Percentage of women birthing at hospitals: In the U.S., 98.4 percent of women give birth in hospitals. Less than one percent give birth at home and 0.52 percent give birth in freestanding birth centers.
- Cesarean rate in hospitals: 32.1 percent of mothers deliver by c-section in hospitals (8).
- Payment source: Birthing in a hospital in the U.S. is expensive. In 2021, 51.7 percent of births were covered by private insurance. Medicaid covered 41 percent of births. Uninsured births accounted for 3.9 percent of births, while 3.4 percent of births were covered by another kind of insurance.
- Cost of hospital birth: In the U.S., the average cost of childbirth in 2022 was $18,865 (9). The cost for a c-section averaged $26,280, and a vaginal birth was $14,768. On average, insurance covers about 15 percent of the cost. The price can be significantly higher if there are delivery and pregnancy complications.
- Fetal mortality rate: A hospital study found that the total fetal mortality rate in 2021 was 5.68 per 1,000 births (10). This is significantly lower for non-Hispanic white women (4.81) versus Non-Hispanic Black women (9.8).
- Many women can’t access a hospital easily: Among low-volume hospitals (ones that aid 10-500 births per year), 18.9 percent weren’t within 30 miles of another obstetric hospital, and 23.9 percent weren’t within 30 miles of a high-volume hospital (11). The study found that there needed to be more access to high-volume and obstetric hospitals for the highest quality perinatal and maternity care.
- Lack of hospital services: A 2022 report found that more than 50 percent of rural counties didn’t have hospital-based services for pregnant women (12).
C-Section Vs. Natural Birth Statistics
Both vaginal births and c-sections are very common in the U.S. We’re going to investigate the differences and what the data has to say about both types of birth in the U.S. and other countries.
- Percentage of C-sections: In the U.S., 32.1 percent of live births were delivered via C-section in 2021 (13). This was a two percent decline since 2011. The remaining births were natural. Twenty-two point three percent of c-section live births were of women who hadn’t had a c-section before.
- Rate of VBAC: The rate of VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) was 14.2 percent in 2021.
- C-section rate by race: Black women are most likely to get a C-section with a rate of 36.8 percent (14). American Indian or Alaska Native women are least likely to get a C-section, with a rate of 29.2 percent. White women have a c-section rate of 31 percent.
- Mortality morbidity in Iran: The mortality morbidity for a c-section is 10.86 percent versus 8.2 percent for vaginal births in Iran (15).
- C-sections are on the rise globally: Across the world, c-section rates are on the rise. They now account for 21 percent of all births (16). While it’s great that we have access to a life-saving procedure, not all c-sections are necessary, and they can cause harm to the mother and baby. In the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Turkey, Egypt, and Cyprus, c-sections outnumber vaginal births.
- Effects on the immune system: Infants born via c-section have a less developed immune system than infants born vaginally (17). Babies born vaginally are exposed to intestinal flora, which can help the infant maintain good health for the years ahead.
- Effects on breastfeeding: Mothers who had a c-section have a more difficult time initiating breastfeeding than mothers who delivered vaginally (18). Ninety-two point fifty-seven percent of mothers who delivered vaginally breastfed within an hour of delivery versus 88.43 percent of mothers who delivered via c-section.
Home Vs. Hospital Births
Curious to know about the differences between home births and hospital births? We have five incredible facts to share.
- Increase in home births: During the pandemic, there was a 22 percent increase in home births, totaling 1.26 percent of all births in America (19).
- Home birth effect on breastfeeding: Babies born at home were more likely to benefit from exclusive breastfeeding for six weeks postpartum (20). Compared to 76.8 percent of hospital-born babies who were exclusively breastfed for six weeks, 87.5 percent of home-birth babies were exclusively breastfed.
- Death rates: Hospital births are safer for the baby in terms of survival. A 2020 study found that 14 newborns per 10,000 live births died following a planned home birth (21). This is four times more than the mortality rate for babies born in hospitals.
- Home birth saves money: A home birth is cheaper than a hospital birth. The average home birth cost in the U.S. is $4,650 (22). The average hospital birth cost is $18,865. However, you may still pay less after a hospital birth as some insurance companies don’t cover a home birth.
- Home birth reduces the chance of tearing: Mothers who have a planned home birth are less likely to suffer from tears, lacerations, and deadly infections (23).
What Happens During a Traditional Hospital Birth?
When you have a traditional hospital birth (for example, no induction or c-section), you will likely start laboring at home. You can head to the hospital once you are in active labor.
First, you will check in at the front desk and get a wristband with your details. You’ll then be taken to the triage room, where a member of staff will check your baby’s heart rate, time your contractions, and check how dilated your cervix is.
If your contractions are five minutes apart and last for one minute, your cervix is dilated more than three centimeters, or your waters have broken, you are considered in active labor. This is the first of three stages of labor. If you’re in the first stage of labor, you will be admitted to a labor and delivery room.
Depending on your birth plan, everyone’s experience in the labor room will look different. Some people might opt for a birthing pool, others will bounce on the ball, and some will ask for an epidural. During this period, a nurse or midwife should monitor how you’re progressing and keep an eye on your baby’s heart rate.
You should be able to have your birth partners with you during this time. You will also have a care team, which may include nurses, doctors, or midwives.
When you dilate to 10 centimeters and feel the urge to push, you’ve now entered the second stage of labor. An OBGYN typically accompanies you as you work to push your baby out. You can do this on the bed, in the pool, or even standing up — whatever is most comfortable.
Once your baby arrives, you should have at least one hour of skin-to-skin. During this time, you may attempt to breastfeed. Your placenta should also be delivered during this hour. This can happen naturally, or you can get an injection to help it come out. The delivery of the placenta is the third stage of labor.
After birth, you will be monitored to ensure your blood pressure and bleeding are normal. If you have had tearing, you will get stitches. Once your vitals are checked — and the baby’s — you usually have a few hours in the labor and delivery room. Then, you will be moved to a recovery room to rest. Most people stay here for a couple of nights, but some women stay longer, depending on how they and the baby feel.
How To Make a Hospital Birth Plan
Some women like to create a birth plan. Others like to go with the flow. If you are making a birth plan, I recommend not getting too attached as, ultimately, you are not in total control, and things may take unexpected turns.
Overall, your birth plan is generally a written plan that you can give to your healthcare team so they know your preferences when giving birth. There are a few things you can include when making your birth plan:
- Whether you want pain relief and what kind.
- Where you want to give birth, such as in a pool, shower, or a bed.
- Who you want in the room with you.
- How you want your baby monitored during labor.
- Your decision surrounding assisted delivery (such as a ventouse, forceps, or episiotomy).
- Your preferences for a c-section if one is recommended for you.
- Whether you want music playing.
- How you want the room’s atmosphere (i.e., low lighting).
- Who you want to cut the cord.
- Whether you want skin-to-skin contact.
- How you want the placenta delivered.
- How you plan to feed your baby when they are born.
- What language you speak, and if you need a translator.
- Anything you want to help you recover postpartum.
You can use a template to create your birth plan, such as this Birth Plan from The Bump. I used a template to create my birth plan, which was very helpful for the healthcare team, especially during shift changes.