What are the main differences between a birth center and a hospital? Did you know that some hospitals have birth centers inside of them? We break down the differences to help you determine which one is right for you.
Birth center birth
A nationally accredited, licensed birth center is a healthcare facility that offers a wide variety of support and natural options for pregnant and birthing mothers. Nurse-midwives, licensed midwives and even some physicians have privileges to assist mothers and deliver babies at birth centers all over the U.S.
Birth centers offer birthing moms a home-like setting in a medical environment. The birth rooms often resemble a room from a house and the smaller support staff offers a more natural approach to labor and delivery. While some birth centers, like the ones located inside of hospitals, can still have a medical feel to them, they are more likely to honor the patient’s wishes and safely follow birth plans. In the event of a medical emergency, patients are transferred to the nearest hospital.
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Advantages of a birth center
• Encouragement or standard care from a doula
• Alternative for parents not comfortable with a home birth, but wish to birth outside of a hospital
• Encouragement of food, drink, music, free movement, family involvement and additional patient requests before, during and after birth
• Most offer birth tubs and showers for water births
• Length of stay is usually shorter than at a hospital (hours instead of days)
• Maternal and newborn care is present but not as invasive as in a hospital
• Increased breastfeeding help and support
• Generally less expensive than a hospital birth
More Birth center benefits >>
Disadvantages of a birth center
• Some don’t accept insurance coverage
• If not attached to a hospital, there’s no access to an operating room or neonatal care in the event of an emergency
• Patients must have an uncomplicated, low-risk pregnancy
A traditional hospital birth experience depends on where you chose to birth your baby, the hospital staff and the support system you bring with you.
Typically, when you deliver your baby in the hospital, you will be assigned a nurse for the majority of your labor then your obstetrician will arrive closer to the time of delivery. If you deliver your baby in the middle of the night, you could be assigned the on-call doctor if your doctor is not available.
Pregnant mothers are also welcome to deliver their babies in a hospital with the care of a family practitioner or Certified Nurse Midwife, provided they have privileges at the hospital.
Advantages of a hospital birth
• Access to emergency care
• Some parents feel safest at a hospital
• Some hospitals allow a Certified Nurse Midwife
• Most hospitals allow the support of a doula
• Epidural anesthesia and other pain medications are readily available
Disadvantages of a hospital birth
• Some hospitals limit the amount of people attending a birth
• Strict policies, rules and schedules
• Hospitals are associated with illness and the infection risks are higher
• Intimidating and impersonal environment
• Less privacy (especially in a shared recovery room)
Choosing a birth place: 10 questions to ask >>
More about birth choices
Finding a birthing option that’s right for you
Healthy pregnant moms have choices: Benefits of midwives and out-of-hospital births
Finding a birth option that’s right for you