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ABSTRACT

This article reviews the literature on birth settings for women with low-risk pregnancies. Methodological issues of the existing research include nonrandom designs, small samples, selection differences, data limitations, and confounding bias. Studies for four birth sites are summarized: the home, freestanding birth centers, in-hospital birthing centers or birthing rooms, and traditional hospital settings. Despite the methodological limitations, nontraditional birth settings present advantages for low-risk women as compared with traditional hospital settings: lower costs for maternity care, and lower use of childbirth procedures, without significant differences in perinatal mortality.