The Sweet Spot: Choosing a Birthing Location
- Births happen everyday & everywhere!
- Before you give birth, you should know all your birth location options & what they can offer you.
- Pick a location that fits you and your baby to get the best birth experience!
You may feel like there are a lot of choices to make once you find out you’re pregnant. Do you want to know the gender before delivery? What type of stroller should you get? One important question to consider is where you want to give birth to your baby. Carefully choosing where you give birth and writing out a simple birth plan can help you have the birth experience you want.
How to Decide
When choosing where you want to give birth, it’s helpful to first think about what you want in a birth experience. Consider some of the details of your birth plan, like if you want access to a tub or shower or you have preference for pain relief, and be sure to select a location that supports the birth style that is important to you. Ask questions like the ones below so you will know what to expect and can decide where you will be the most comfortable.
- Where do I feel most comfortable, in a homey setting or hospital room?
- Who can be with me during labor and birth here?
- How much say do I have in my child’s birth here?
- How do they support mothers who choose to breastfeed?
- What if there is a medical emergency? How am I included in the decision-making?
In addition to this, you should consider the logistics of the birthing location.
- How far is the location from home?
- What if I go into labor early or the baby has medical issues?
- What are my health risks that could mean I need more attention during birth?
- Is my insurance accepted at the location? What are the costs of giving birth at this location?
It is also important to know that not all healthcare providers can deliver babies at all locations. If you have already chosen a provider, discuss your birth plan and birth location options with them. When choosing a provider, consider meeting with your potential providers and discussing your preferences and their experience to help you pick a provider who is a good fit for you!
While hospitals are the most common birthing location, there are non-hospital options for giving birth, including at a birthing center or at home.
In a hospital setting, you will have access to medical pain relief, surgical intervention (C-section), or other medical intervention if needed during labor and delivery. Hospitals also have healthcare professionals who will care for your baby after birth. Hospitals do typically have a limit on the number of people who can be with you during labor and delivery.
Birthing centers are healthcare facilities that provide a more home-like atmosphere. Birth centers support your right to choose how you labor. You are able to move around, use water immersion, or eat if you want. Birth centers typically have more comfortable, private rooms than hospitals. Most birth centers allow any family, friends, or support people you want to be present during labor and delivery.
If you choose to give birth at home, you should work with a midwife to prepare your home. Some midwives provide lists of supplies you should buy, like gauze pads, nasal syringe, and gloves. You will need to write out a Plan B in case a hospital transfer is necessary. It can help to have a midwife who works with a backup OB/GYN. Your midwife can give the baby basic care, but it is important that you plan to have a pediatrician examine your baby within 24 hours of being born. Most midwives will check-up on you and your baby several times in the first few weeks after birth. Post birth check-ups are extremely important, to ensure that you and your baby are healthy. Birthing centers or home births are only available for healthy women anticipating a low-risk pregnancy and birth.
The best decision is an informed one. We created table below so you can easily compare the different types of birthing locations! Consider all of your options so you can choose a safe, comfortable place to welcome your new baby.
|Hospital||Birth Center||Home Birth|
|Provider Type||OBGyn, Midwife, Perinatologist||Midwife||Midwife|
|Delivery Type||Vaginal or C-section||Vaginal||Vaginal|
|Pain Relief Options||Epidural, Nitrous-oxide (laughing gas)*, non-medical methods (birth balls, massaging, showers or tubs)||Nitrous-oxide (laughing gas)*, non-medical methods||Non-medical methods|
|Fetal Monitoring||Continuous*, every so often||Every so often||Every so often|
|Discharge Timeline||2-4 days||4-12 hours||N/A|
|Postpartum Care||Recovery and check-ups while at the hospital||Visit or in-home check-up 1 to 2 days after birth||In-home check-ups for several days after birth*|
|Infant Care||In-hospital pediatrician check-ups, nursery*||Nurse or midwife newborn care and referral if needed||Midwife newborn check, planned pediatrician visit|
*Hospitals, birth centers, and midwives can vary widely in their policies and what they offer during labor and delivery. Be sure to research your birth location’s specific policies.
*The COVID-19 health emergency has changed many policies and regulations of these birth locations. Stay in contact with your provider and up-to-date on the newest rules.
- Birth Settings in the U.S., Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC)
- Planned Home Birth, ACOG
- What are the options for pain relief during labor and delivery? , NIH
- Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring During Labor, ACOG
- Cesarean Birth, ACOG
- What is a birth center?, American Association of Birth Centers
- Home Births, American Pregnancy Association