With birth rates above the national average, Arizona offers parents-to-be more options than ever.
...in the Beginning there was an egg and a sperm. Whether their union was divinely ordained, scientifically schemed or accidentally arranged is for their owners to say, but their triumph over the obstacle course of the reproductive system – from fertilization to implantation to gestation – is by turns miraculous, monumental and downright messy. Every human has the same basic biological building blocks for his or her origin story. What happens next is where the plots diverge, and in Arizona there are more possibilities than ever before.
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 87,274 babies were born in Arizona in 2012 – about one every six minutes. That’s roughly 15,000 more babies than there are seats at University of Phoenix Stadium. Though birth rates have dropped locally and nationally since the recession, we’re still above-average breeders in Arizona, with a 2012 birth rate of 13.2 live births per thousand of population per year, compared with the U.S. rate of 12.6.
Those babies were born at glossy, high-tech medical centers, run-of-the-mill suburban hospitals, bare-bones inner-city clinics, hardscrabble rural hospitals, naturopathic birth centers and even in their homes, on mom and dad’s bed or in an inflatable tub in the living room. Today, Arizona mamas – and papas, if they’re involved, though 38,770 of those babies were born to unwed mothers – face a much different birthing landscape than their mothers and grandmothers did, with birth plans and Bradley classes and fierce mom competition on every topic imaginable. Hospital or home birth? Epidural or no? Breastfeed or formula? They have plenty of options, and, with the accessibility and ubiquity of information in the technological era, they’re also more educated and empowered to make their own decisions.
The conflict between home and hospital births has been particularly divisive, with each side painted with broad strokes by opponents. Midwives and home birthers have been vilified as careless hippies or backwoods zealots willfully ignoring medical advances and jeopardizing mothers’ and babies’ safety in service of their progressive vanity. Doctors and nurses, meanwhile, have been demonized as calculating, number-crunching Napoleons drugging women and i