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For women who want a home birth, wealth matters

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Every parent faces myriad choices during their time caring for a child. What’s the best preschool? How late should I let them stay out with friends? What’s the most appropriate age to let them start dating?

But as any mother knows, many important choices have to be made before the child has even left the womb. Prenatal care and the birthing process are arguably some of the tenderest points of contention among parents. And for good reason: Studies have shown that decisions made even in the earliest stages of a pregnancy can have lasting effects on the health of a child.

One major trend that has gained attention recently is home birth. As The Atlantic reported in 2013, recent studies have found that home births typically have fewer complications, most notably when it wasn’t the first time the woman gave birth.

Such findings have naturally led to an increasing interest in bearing a child in the comfort of one's own home.

“Although still relatively rare, births outside of the hospital rose from 1.26 percent in 2011 to 1.36 percent in 2012,” NBC reported last year. “And two-thirds of those births are happening at home.”

But as The Washington Post’s Danielle Paquette wrote on July 8, having a baby at home isn’t an equal opportunity for everyone, especially where safety is concerned.

Paquette cites a recent study published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics that tracked the impact home births have had on the infant mortality rate in the Netherlands.

The study found that while there does seem to be a dip in infant deaths as a result of more home births in the Netherlands, “a poorer woman who preferred a home birth was more likely to encounter tragedy.”

According to Paquette, basic access to medical care is simply less common among poorer families, even, as she points out, in countries like the Netherlands that have universal health care. The less access one has to medical help in general, according to Paquette, the more likely they are to have undetected infirmities that might lead to complications during birth.

Beyond just the safety aspects, home births also cost a lot of money. Because of complications with insurance coverage, the need for personal in-house medical assistants (to provide the necessary care that typically nurses or doctors would provide) and any number of other necessities typically found at a hospital, the bill can climb high awfully quick. For many in America, even the thought of attempting a home birth is well beyond their financial reach.

A safe home birth seems to be the privilege of the wealthy. As NBC also reported, the demographic choosing to have their babies outside of hospitals by an overwhelming margin is non-Hispanic white women. And as many reports have found in recent years, white Americans are the wealthiest demographic by far.

JJ Feinauer is a writer for Deseret News National. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: jjfeinauer.