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Labor and Birth: Hospital or Birth Center?

Labor and Birth: Hospital or Birth Center?

What is a birth center?

Before you even start looking into a birth center you are going to have to meet the requirements of having a low risk, healthy pregnancy.

OK you have passed that test; you are low risk and ready to check this out. So what is a birth center? This is a place where you can enjoy a mellow, low tech, comfortable and safe labor. They are usually an independent facility, not at all like a mini-hospital, but more like being in a nice hotel or bed and breakfast.

Many couples who choose this option still wonder about what, if something, were to go wrong. Don’t worry! Emergencies don’t just happen. They develop. And there is usually plenty of time to transfer to a medical facility, if needed. In pretty much all birth centers you will be taken care of by a midwife, and have a backup hospital close by. Birth centers are equipped with IV’s, oxygen, medication and infant resuscitation, and trained and licensed medical practitioners who know exactly what they are doing.

Some of these birth centers are known as freestanding. This means you will be going to them routinely throughout your pregnancy, and having all your appointments at the same place you will be laboring and birthing. For all you nervous mommies, this gives you time to acclimate.


Most labors and births take place in a hospital, especially if you have an obstetrician. In most cases you will deliver at the place where your care provider works or “has privileges”. So keep this in mind before choosing your provider.

Hospitals are good places to deliver for those who have high-risk pregnancies, have had previous birth complications, are planning on doing a VBAC or need a cesarean section. In these situations it is important to have the knowledge and back up from the hospital staff. Many times you will have on-staff pediatricians, anesthesiologist, and newborn medical technology.

Hospitals have come a very long way in the last century. They are no longer that cold, sterile, scary place no one wants to go during labor. Many hospitals, especially those with birth centers have very accommodating rooms. These rooms can include, jetted tubs, dim lights, private bathrooms and sometimes the option of a birthing tub. You may be able to labor, deliver, and recover all in the comfort of one room.

One thing to keep in mind is that all hospital policies can vary, so make sure you know what your priorities are for your labor. Many policies differ between routine IV’s, fetal monitoring, birthing positions, time limits, and cesarean policies.

Which one should I choose?

Birth Center Benefits include having more control and involvement during your labor, your pick of invitees, no pressure in getting an epidural, a network of services, lower costs, breastfeeding help, and a speedier check out.

Hospital Benefits include the backup of immediate medical intervention if needed, benefits to the high risk mothers or mothers of multiples, emergency cesarean staff, and neonatal services for the baby.

Despite where you plan on laboring and welcoming your baby into the world, the most important factor is your safety and comfort. Do your research, and make sure you do the work to research and choose the place that is best for yourself, your family, your baby; and where you feel the most relaxed, and safe!