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What to look for when choosing a birthing facility

Where will your baby be born? It's a big decision. The place you choose can shape your experience in a big way. 

Let's look at three options and the things you should think about with each one. 

Hospital delivery

Is it a match? 

Hospitals offer an expert medical staff. They also have the latest in technology. If a problem arises, a hospital can give you and your baby the best care in a hurry.

That can give you peace of mind, even if yours is a low-risk pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, a hospital is the safest choice for a higher-risk pregnancy. 

It's also the safest choice if you need to have labor induced or you want to have an epidural for pain relief.  

What should you look for? 

Your hospital may have one or more of these options available:

  • Labor and delivery. You'll go through labor in one room, deliver in another and be transferred to a recovery room. For the rest of your stay, you'll be in a hospital room. 
  • Labor-delivery-recovery. You'll be in the same room throughout labor, delivery and recovery. Then you'll move to a hospital room. 
  • Labor-delivery-recovery-postpartum. You'll be in one room for your entire stay. 

Birth center delivery

A birth center gives you the chance to give birth in a relaxed setting. Most birth centers are staffed by nurses, midwives or nurse-midwives. Birthing center staff may work with an obstetrician or consulting physician. A birth center may be freestanding. It may also be on hospital grounds or inside a hospital. 

Is it a match? 

This could be a good fit if yours is a low-risk pregnancy, and you want a more natural birth experience with the option to go home as quickly as possible. Many birth centers have only minimal medical equipment. That means this isn't a match for high-risk pregnancies. 

If you want an epidural, a birth center likely isn't for you. Many use no drugs for pain relief, except a local analgesic to suture tears from childbirth. 

What should you look for? 

Be sure to ask: 

  • Is the center accredited? Look for a seal of approval from the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Centers, the Joint Commission or the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers. 
  • Are all doctors, nurses and midwives on staff properly licensed? 
  • Do the providers have hospital privileges if you need to be transferred to a hospital in an emergency?
  • What is the transfer rate of patients from the center to a hospital?
  • Does your insurance cover the center's costs? 

Home birth: Think twice 

What about giving birth at home? 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warns against it. Even in the healthiest pregnancy, problems can arise with little or no warning during labor and delivery. Being in a hospital or a birth center with a set transfer policy to a hospital is the safest choice. 

More pregnancy news

There's a lot that goes into having a healthy pregnancy. Take a look at these do's and don'ts

Sources: American Association of Birth Centers; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Pregnancy Association

Reviewed 12/18/2023

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