Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hospital Birth, Home Birth, or Birthing Center?

The trend towards birthing in hospitals is one that has only just begun in the last century. It was not even until the 1920's that women became drawn to hospitals due to the availability of newer pain relief options. But women in the 1970's were beginning to discuss how the environment in a hospital was safe, but very uninviting. They also left out consideration to the expecting mother's other family members and general comfort of what can be a very long stay.

Birthing centers are an answer that seem to be gaining popularity in the community of low risk pregnancies. The environment of a birthing center is to provide a safe place for labor, but also to feel more home-like, allowing for as much family who wanted to be there, to comfortably participate in the birth. They are generally larger than hospital rooms, with a more cozy decor, personal bathrooms, and personal care.

And then home births are obviously one of the most natural methods a mother could choose. You have free reign to eat and drink, move around, and most importantly, it is the option with the lowest chance of infection.

Let's just break it down to some basic pros and cons. This list is from pregnancychildbirth.suite101

I. Hospital


  • Anesthesia (for surgery) and analgesia (pain relief) is readily available in hospitals.
  • Helpful for many women and/or babies with high-risk health issues.
  • Additional help in recovery.


  • Medical interventions are harder to avoid in hospitals.
  • Medical staff (for the most part) are strangers to mother.
  • Lack of privacy.
  • Hospital environment can be stressful, noisy and less relaxing.
  • Highest chance of infection for mother and baby in hospitals (see below).
  • Cannot eat or most hospitals.
  • Highest Cesarean rate of all three places of birth

II. Birth Center


  • Fewer medical interventions in birth centers.
  • Medical staff (midwives typically) are more familiar to mother and family.
  • Often birth centers have many natural pain relief options such as jacuzzis.
  • Better freedom of movement during labor and birth of baby (little or no restrictions on mother's choice of positioning)
  • Mother can eat and drink as she desires in birth centers.


  • No anesthesia available.
  • Transfer from birth center to hospital is required for complications with mother or baby.
  • May not be available to all women due to insurance or lack of birth centers in their area.
  • Typically must leave birth center within about 6-10 hours after birth.

III. Homebirth


  • Environment is more relaxing at home.
  • Medical staff (midwives) and helpers are well-known to mother and family.
  • Little to no medical intervention in homebirth.
  • No restriction on eating.
  • No restriction on positioning.
  • No limits placed on length of labor at a homebirth.
  • Lowest risk of infection from all three places of birth.
  • Homebirth has the lowest chance of a Cesarean birth


  • No analgesia or anesthesia available in home birth.
  • Homebirth requires transfer for complications of mother or baby.
  • Expertise and training of home birth support/medical team varies.
  • Mother and labor partners may have to provide their own pain relief options such as a tub rental.
  • Not covered by all insurance.
  • Parents may need to arrange for their own immediate postpartum help if needed.
Really what it all boils down to are the opinions, beliefs, and risk level of the expectant mother. If she values privacy, or has fears of infection, a hospital birth may not be the best choice. If she is set on medical pain relief and feels safer in a hospital environment, a home birth or birthing center might not make her as comfortable. It all just depends.

Women can safely give birth in a number of locations, we are just more used to seeing hospital births in our culture and in movies and on tv, and in turn makes it feel as though it's a scary decision to choose elsewhere. "A 2003 study of nearly 3,000 birth center births versus hospital births found that not only did both places resulted in equally safe outcomes for both mothers and babies, but the women who gave birth in birth centers wound up with fewer epidurals and cesareans."

The best advice is just to do research, investigate local facilities, and talk to others who have experienced both options.

Another great entry we found is this one:

Where a woman talks about her first pregnancy in a hospital, vs her second in a birthing center. She gives a much more personal pros and cons list, and we recommend any expecting mother read it!


  1. Hi there,
    Have you seen the documentry, The Business of Being Born ? I would highly recommend it to women who are interested in home birth. I recently had a home birth, it was a great experiance and I feel really lucky I had this option. I spent time alot of time researching and educating myself on natural birth and I think its a safer way to go both for mom and baby as long as your healthly and low risk. Thanks for the posting. :)

  2. I am considering a birthing center, but my sister in law wants to do home birth, I am going to check out the video, thanks a lot!!