Parenting is full of big decisions, and years before you start thinking about when homework needs to get done or whether curfew is going to be a thing in your household, you’re faced with the decision of where your baby is going to come into the world. This is an important question not just because you’re choosing the first room your child will ever see, but also because where you give birth is where you are going to be spending one of the most important times in your life, and choosing the right place is an important piece of the picture in giving yourself a positive birth experience.
The most common choice of location, hospital births are generally agreed to be the safest place for women who have higher-risk pregnancies to give birth. And they’re also great for women with low-risk pregnancies who want to be sure that, if they need or decide they’d prefer medical intervention, it’s immediately available. Hospitals are also often the best place for women who think they’ll want pain medication during labor, though some pain medication may also be available through a midwife either at a birth center or during a home birth.
If you think you may want pain medication during labor, it’s a good idea to check in about its availability if you’re giving birth anywhere but in a hospital. Hospital births can be overseen by obstetricians, midwives, or some combination of the two. Within the category of hospital births, there are hospitals of different sizes and with different philosophies about birth, some of which may fit your family’s needs better than others.
Birth centers are generally midwife-led, and have a lower incidence of C-sections. They offer a more controlled and routine environment than home births. Birth centers generally have an established relationship with a particular hospital that they regularly transfer patients to, in case of emergency or a change in patient preferences (like wanting an epidural). This means that there should be a process for transfers, which your provider can explain. But it also means that in order to get a better picture of what your birth experience might be, you’ll probably want to research that hospital as well. Some birth centers are located in or next to hospitals, while others are their own separate locations that are only loosely affiliated with hospitals. Some birth centers offer the option of water births or other alternative birthing methods.
Those who choose home births often cite the desire to be somewhere they’re already comfortable; others cite safety concerns and interventions in the hospital as the reasons for their choice. Home births that are overseen by midwives also offer an opportunity for water births or other alternative birthing methods.
There is no right answer to the question of how to decide where to give birth. The important thing about the process is to remember that it is a choice, and that you have the opportunity to decide on the right option to fit your unique pregnancy, whatever that turns out to be.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Women’s Health Experts Recommend Obstetric Care Designations to Improve Maternal Care.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Jan 2015. Web.
- “Planned Home Birth.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Aug 2016. Web.
- OBOS Pregnancy & Birth Contributors. “Choosing a Place to Give Birth.” OurBodiesOurselves. Our Bodies Ourselves, Apr 2014. Web.
- Patricia A Janssen, et al. “Outcomes of planned home birth with registered midwife versus planned hospital birth with midwife or physician.” CMAJ. 181(6-7):377-383. Web. Sep 2009.