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Home Birth vs. Birth Center vs. Hospital: How to Choose?

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Pregnant woman trying to choose between home birth vs. birth center vs. hospital.
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In this day and age, you have three main options for giving birth: at home, in a hospital, or at a birth center. But, your requirements, risks, and, to some extent, where you reside will all influence where you can deliver your child. Any of these birth locations could be an option if you're in good health and don't have any issues. However, it's best to give birth at a hospital where doctors are on hand if you have a medical problem. If you're less likely to need medical interventions during the delivery, you can give birth at home or at a birth center. But there is much more to consider when choosing where to give birth. Therefore, this article will discuss choosing between home birth vs. birth center vs. hospital. Keep reading to find out which one suits your needs better.

First of all, it will be helpful to have the right medical team in place. Midwives are master's-educated nurses with a focus on assisting with pregnancy and delivery. Obstetrics/ Gynecology (OB/GYN) is a branch of medicine that specializes in the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth and in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the female reproductive organs.

A doula is a trained professional who provides expert guidance for the service of others and who supports another person through a significant health-related experience, such as childbirth, miscarriage, induced abortion or stillbirth, as well as non-reproductive experiences such as dying.

Find out what options you have in your area

Google can inform you of your local options. However, you can learn more from your midwife and children’s centers, general practitioner offices, local maternity facilities, or your nearby hospital's maternity department. You may also want to consult your friends and relatives for recommendations. Moreover, if you're able to, visit local maternity centers. Prepare a list of questions to ask in advance so that you receive all the clarity you need.

Giving birth in a hospital

Most women choose to deliver their babies in hospitals. Many factors, such as location or health insurance, may influence a woman's decision to give birth naturally at a hospital. Some choose a hospital or the potential of receiving an epidural because they feel safer knowing that medical treatments are available in case they or their child need them. Also, most hospital deliveries are attended by obstetrics gynecologists.

Woman being comforted by a doctor.
Between home birth vs. birth center vs. hospital, hospital births are the most popular.

Benefits of giving birth in a hospital

First, you can often bring one or two people to a hospital when you give birth. Also, a hospital will have fetal monitors, labor rooms, and operating rooms if you need a cesarean section delivery. As mentioned above, your delivery will be overseen by an obstetrician, a physician with training in pregnancy and delivery. If things go wrong during birth, a hospital can perform a cesarean section in only a few minutes. Not to mention that If your baby has any issues after birth, neonatologists who specialize in newborn care will be available, along with a special care infant unit. Furthermore, your insurance will pay for a hospital birth if you choose one.

Giving birth in a birth center

While accounting for just about 3% of all deliveries in the US, birthing centers are growing in popularity. Many women select birthing centers as a compromise between giving birth at home and in a hospital. These families often choose a natural delivery with no postpartum separation from their newborn or family.

Midwives often work in birthing facilities. They receive professional training and certification to deal with healthy, low-risk mothers. Midwives offer treatment at birth centers both before and during childbirth. For additional support with matters such as how to find balance in your life after having a baby, doulas can offer help in birth centers, home settings, and hospitals.

Although birth centers and hospitals are separate entities, they frequently collaborate so that a doctor may care for the mother in the event of a hospital transfer. They could even have an OB-GYN or physician that they consult with. Sometimes, a birth center is linked to a hospital.

Women looking at baby clothes.
Having friends around at a birthing center is important for some women.

Benefits of giving birth in a birth center

There are many advantages to giving birth in a birth center as opposed to giving birth in a hospital. For instance, you can have family and close friends around you for support. Furthermore, more of these benefits are the same as home births. Above all, birthing centers enable mothers to give birth normally in a comforting, homelike environment. Unmedicated, individualized, and natural pain management techniques are the hallmarks of births in birth centers.

Birth centers share many of the characteristics of the midwifery style of care, such as treating the mother, viewing birth as a natural process instead of a medical event, and letting the expectant mother take the lead in choices regarding her care.

Giving birth at home

If your pregnancy is uncomplicated and you and the baby are healthy, you may give birth at home. Generally speaking, it is safe wherever you decide to give birth to your child. Planned home birth is just as safe for a child as giving birth in a hospital or a midwife-led facility. On the other hand, although it's uncommon, if something goes wrong when giving birth at home, it might be worse for you or the baby than if you were receiving specialized care in a hospital. But if you choose to give birth at home, a midwife will be at your side to help you through the labor process. Your midwife will arrange for you to travel to the hospital if you require assistance or your labor is not progressing.

Pregnant woman with multiple hands on her belly.
Everyone wants what is best for the mother and her baby, whether it is a hospital, birth center, or home birth.

Benefits of giving birth at home

Nowadays, women are giving birth at home more and more frequently. That is so because giving birth is very demanding and stressful, and giving birth at home offers a more cozy and familiar setting. Home births are also more flexible and often less expensive than hospital deliveries. For instance, you won’t have to separate from your partner after delivery, you won’t leave your other kids alone if you have any, and you will be looked after by the midwife that you worked with throughout the pregnancy. Also, when giving birth at home, it’s less likely that you will require an intervention like forceps.

At the same time, if you choose to give birth at home, you must get your home ready for the baby, especially if you just moved in. Babyproofing the home should be a priority in a house you are just settling in.

Still unsure what to choose between home birth vs. birth center vs. hospital?

The atmosphere that best reflects your beliefs and your family values should determine whether you choose home birth vs. birth center vs. hospital. Considering and analyzing all choices can help you make a wise decision. Visualize the labor experience that you want to have. Asking about other people's birthing experiences can also be helpful.

Maggie Palmer is a writer and blogger and a happy mother of two with experience in

homebirth and hospital birth. Through her writing, Maggie helps moms-to-be navigate their

pregnancy journey and make informed decisions.

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