When you first find out you’re pregnant, you soon realize how many decisions you’ll have to make for you and your baby. One of the biggest of these is where you’ll give birth. You may wonder, “Is a birthing center right for me, or should I deliver at a hospital?” Perhaps you were unaware that there even were options besides a hospital delivery.
I didn’t know about these alternatives when I first became pregnant. I’m at the tail-end of my pregnancy now, eagerly awaiting “D-Day.” I’ve chosen to deliver at a birthing center about an hour away from my home. I love the midwives there, and am super-excited to have such a great team supporting me on the big day.
After doing my research, I knew that going to a birthing center was a perfect choice for me. If any of the following factors apply to you, you may want to consider a birthing center as well!
You have a low-risk pregnancy.
Being considered a low-risk pregnancy, I have more freedom in the type of care I want to receive. Most birthing centers will only accept cases of low-risk pregnancy. This means you don’t have any risk factors that may complicate your pregnancy, such as chronic disease, problems in past pregnancies, prior C-sections, maternal age, and being pregnant with multiples.
When looking for a care provider for your pregnancy, make sure you are upfront about any medical conditions you have. Ultimately you want to give birth in a place that is equipped to handle your needs best.
The environment in which you give birth matters to you.
For me, the right environment makes a significant difference in my mood. Walking into a well-decorated, clean room fills me with happy, fuzzy feelings. When I first visited my birthing center, I immediately felt at home. With big, comfy beds, spacious bathtubs, and plenty of decor, it felt more like I was visiting a hotel than a medical facility.
The rooms at the birthing center also include light dimmers, a speaker for music, and aromatherapy diffusers. They emphasize the importance of making moms feel relaxed and calm during labor, which I really appreciate. If you also care about “setting the mood” and having more control over your birth environment, consider a birthing center!
You don’t like hospitals.
This goes back to my prior point about having a comfortable environment – for me, it’s hard to feel at home in a hospital. A lot of things could factor into this: the alcohol smell, the bright lights, the machines, to name a few. Staying calm will help you cope with labor, so it’s important that you determine what kind of environment you will feel most relaxed in.
I’m not saying that I’m anti-hospital. I’ll be grateful to have one nearby in case any complications do arise. But in my view, labor is a natural process that in most cases does not require the fancy treatments that a hospital can provide.
You like the idea of a “natural” birth but aren’t ready to commit to a home birth.
The more I read about natural (intervention-free) births, the more I bought into the idea of having one. Everyone with a natural birth story made it sound like such a positive, empowering experience. Many of these were home births attended by midwives.
At first, I looked into the possibility of doing a home birth. A part of me loved the idea of having all the comforts at home at hand. However, as a first-time mom, I had no idea what to expect during labor. I didn’t want to be unprepared for any complications that could arise.
A birthing center ended up being a perfect compromise. I would still have my natural birth in a homey environment, but a staff of midwives and nurses would be there with any supplies I might need, and with the hospital literally across the parking lot just in case.
You want a water birth.
Moms who have labored and/or given birth in water swear by its pain-relieving effects. Hospital rooms are usually equipped with showers, but not tubs. You’d also have to get out of the water when it’s time to push.
That means if you’re dead-set on a water birth, you will most likely go to a birthing center or have a home birth. While a water birth is not an absolute must for me, it’s definitely something I’m interested in trying after hearing about its benefits.
You prefer to be left alone during and after labor.
Women who have given birth in hospitals often report that their rooms feel like a “revolving door” of nurses and doctors. Teaching hospitals may let students come in to observe the birth. After birth, you’ll be checked on throughout the night, and you may have to make a request to your doctors and nurses if you want to do immediate skin-to-skin or rooming in with your baby.
I value my privacy, especially if I am going to be exposed and vulnerable. I plan to only have my husband and the nurse or midwife in the room with me. My birthing center also gives families uninterrupted bonding time with the baby after birth. I feel more secure about my birthing experience knowing that interruptions will be kept to a minimum.
You want to move around during labor.
Any mom who has experienced a natural birth will tell you that movement helps labor along and makes contractions more bearable. Moving into different positions throughout labor also makes it easier for gravity to push your baby further down. If you get an epidural or are given continuous fetal monitoring, though, you’ll be confined to lying down on the hospital bed.
At a birthing center, you will not only be allowed to move around, but chances are they’ll also have some props to help with those movements. Mine provides moms with birthing balls, a birthing stool, and bars to hang off of. You’re also welcome to bring any other aids you think you’ll need to feel comfortable, such as a massage ball.
You’d rather avoid unnecessary interventions.
If you’re worried about receiving too many unnecessary interventions during labor, you may be better off going to a birthing center. A birthing center will typically not have Pitocin, epidurals, or C-sections available on-site. The most foolproof way to avoid unneeded interventions is to not have them on hand in the first place.
You want to eat and drink during labor.
Despite evidence of the benefits of eating and drinking during labor, there are still hospitals that prohibit moms from doing so. Going for hours without any kind of nutrition can lead to burnout. How many times have you heard childbirth be compared to a marathon? I couldn’t imagine running a marathon without eating or drinking anything.
Birthing centers will let you bring your own snacks and drinks so that you can keep your energy up as you labor.
You want to go home ASAP.
If you have a hospital birth, you can expect to stay at least overnight, if not longer. Reasons for this may include waiting for an epidural to wear off, or recovery from surgery. Because birthing centers do not utilize as many interventions, you can expect to be off your feet and heading home shortly after giving birth!
My birthing center told me that moms stay at the center for an average of 12 hours total – labor included. This means we won’t have to pack as much in our bags, and we will probably spend our first night with the baby in the comfort of our own home.
When it comes down to it, it’s your choice!
While I’m happy with my choice, I can’t argue that a birthing center is the superior option for every woman. In the end, it comes down to what you are the most comfortable with and what’s most important to you.
Do you know someone who is debating a birthing center birth? Share this article their way!
If you’ve had a birth center birth, I’d love to hear about your experience in a comment!