Choosing Between a Hospital and a Birthing Center: What’s Right for You?

As the due date of your little one creeps closer, you might want to start thinking about your birth experience. You and your partner will need to discuss the birth plan and if you want a home birth, water birth, natural birth, cesarean section, or birth with epidural. But beyond all of this, you’ll also need to decide where your child is born.

Some mothers opt to go with a home birth, while others find the very idea very uncomfortable. For the latter, there are two other options: having your baby in a hospital, or having it in a birthing center. Hospitals are the more traditional approach, but birthing center births are becoming more and more common. A birthing center can give the feel of a cozy home birth while still being around medical professionals. But before you decide, it’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages of each so you can choose the option that better fits your family and its needs.


Birthing Center Advantages

Doula care. This is a significant advantage for many mothers. Having doula care can not only be comforting, but doulas can be a source of real encouragement. Whether you choose to have your very own doula or just work with the one on staff the night of your delivery, you’ll get the perk of very personalized care.

Freedom. This one may sound silly, but a big benefit of birthing centers is the lack of strict rules and policies. You will have the freedom to roam the facility, take walks outside, enjoy music of your choice, and partake in food that’s not hospital cafeteria food! You can also agree to as many visitors and family involvement as you’d like.

Shorter stay. Due to the natural birthing process at a center, your stay in the center can be much shorter than at a hospital. There’s often less of a “discharge” procedure, and more of an understanding of what at-home care will look like.

Increased breastfeeding support. This can be another big consideration for soon-to-be mamas. In a birthing center, you can receive much more support and encouragement on your initial breastfeeding journey. The hands-on personal approach can make your chances of breastfeeding success much higher.

Birthing Center Disadvantages

Lack of coverage. This can be the biggest disadvantage to birthing centers.  Many insurance companies have yet to hop on the birthing center bandwagon, and you may find yourself covering a significant portion of the cost. While birthing centers are typically less expensive than a hospital stay, they can still offer a financial hardship.

Decreased access to surgery or neonatal care. In cases of delivery emergencies, unless your birthing center is attached to a hospital, the access to surgery and NICU care is drastically decreased. They will still have emergency vehicles on standby to transport you to hospitals nearby, but if this makes you uncomfortable, make sure to ask questions.

You must be low-risk. If there are any risks or potential complications for your pregnancy, you may be ruled out from using a birth center. Talk with your healthcare providers to decide what’s best for you and your little one’s health.

Hospital Advantages

Access to emergency care. In a hospital setting, if anything goes wrong during delivery, it takes little to no time to whisk you or your baby off to emergency care. This can be a huge advantage for those who may be nervous about a first delivery.

Epidural readily available. Many new mamas can be very anxious about the amount of pain they may experience during delivery. Hospitals provide epidurals and other anesthetics to help ease the pain, while birthing centers will not.

Increased insurance coverage. Depending on your healthcare coverage, a portion of hospital delivery costs can be paid for by your insurance, making the entire experience a lot easier on your wallet.

A “safety net” mentality. If this is your first child, being at a hospital can provide a lot of additional comfort knowing that you’re surrounded by medical teams and modern medicine. If you’re feeling especially nervous about the experience, a hospital may be the best choice for you.

Hospital Disadvantages

Stricter policies. This is a big downside to hospital deliveries. There are many stipulations on how much you can move, what you can bring into the room to make it feel homier, and even what you can eat. Many mamas feel better about having a more flexible environment to deliver in.

Less visitors. Another thing hospitals can be quite strict on is the number of visitors you can have, and how many people can be involved and in the room. If you have a large family and feel comfortable having them all around you, consider a birthing center over a hospital.

Impersonal. Hospitals can certainly feel less personal than a home birth or birthing center. Your doctor likely has other babies being born that night, you may have to share a room, and you might need to rely on a mother or partner for encouragement, unless you have a great team of nurses.

Remember, no matter where you choose to have your little one, how it makes you feel is all that matters. Make sure that your choice makes you happy, and your delivery will be one of the best days of your life!

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