I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. Full Disclosure
There once was a time when a woman had no option to deliver her baby at home. Now women have quite a few options when it comes to choosing their birth location. All birth locations have their own perks and all have their own downsides.
One mom’s choice may not be the perfect choice for another mother. When it comes to having your baby there are many things to factor in when deciding where to have your baby.
How to Choose Your Birth Location
The Different Locations for Delivery
This is probably the most common choice for delivery location. In the ever-increasing modern medicine world we live in, many feel that the hospital is the place to have a baby.
Most hospital deliveries are overseen by an OB or family doctor but there are also midwives who will deliver at hospitals as well.
Pros: Instant access to any medical tools or procedures should a problem occur.
Cons: Hospitals tend to have high intervention rates (such as Pitocin, Epidurals, etc) and can have guidelines that might not line up with how you wish to deliver. This does not mean that a natural birth is not possible in a hospital just keep in mind, you have the right to refuse any procedure but it may be a fight to do so)
This is sort of the middle of the road option between hospitals and home births. A birthing center is usually more relaxed in both atmosphere and guidelines but still has a bit of that professional feeling.
Most birthing centers are overseen by midwives, however there are a few OB’s that will deliver at birthing centers. When I say birthing center I am mostly referring to free standing birthing centers. There are birthing centers that are located in hospitals but from what I’ve seen those birthing centers tend to be more like hospitals and less like free standing birthing centers.
Pros: More freedom than a hospital. There are usually less interventions.
Cons: Not all procedures can be done at a birthing center like a cesarean section. In these cases, you would need to be transferred to a hospital. Some birthing centers will only allow low risk pregnancies.
The original delivery location. The mother has her baby in the comfort of her own home usually overseen and assisted by a midwife. A home birth obviously has no real guidelines or restrictions and generally no interventions.
Pros: Ideal for those looking for a completely natural birth. It is also a good location for those wishing to involve the whole family in the birth experience.
Cons: Should the need arise the mother would need to be transferred to a hospital for certain procedures. Depending on the midwife, some will only allow home births for low risk pregnancies. It can also be hard to find a midwife who is allowed to assist in a home birth, as some states still do not allow midwives to do home births.
Personal Factor’s to Consider When Choosing a Location
What type of birth you want
If you are needing a cesarean section then a hospital is your only choice. If you want a natural birth without the need to remind medical attendees of your decision then a birthing center or home birth might be the best choice.
Where You are Most Comfortable
Would delivering at home make you feel more at ease or would you be constantly distracted by the fact that you were going to deliver where you live? When you have your baby you want to be somewhere that makes you feel comfortable.
For some women this is at home as that is where they are familiar with everything, for others it’s a hospital because they feel comfortable knowing that medical assistance is only an arms reach away. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to your comfort in delivery.
Doctor or Midwife
Doctors tend to only deliver at hospitals so if you feel a doctor is the best choice for you then odds are good you would have to choose a hospital (although it’s not impossible to find a doctor who will deliver in a birthing center).
If you want a midwife then you can probably deliver anywhere (depending on where your midwife is allowed to deliver) Midwives can even deliver at hospitals so long as the hospital has approved them.
Sadly, money really shouldn’t be a deciding factor for where you have your baby but for many it has to be. If you have insurance then you would need to check out your options and see if hiring a midwife costs the same or less than a hospital birth. If you have no insurance then many times having a home birth or even a birthing center is a cheaper option than a hospital birth.
This should and shouldn’t change your decision. If your labor is not insanely fast then traveling 30 minutes or more probably isn’t that big of a deal. If you want to use a birthing center and the only one near you is over 3 hours away, then perhaps you will have to chose another option or perhaps you will need to get creative and camp out in a hotel as you approach your due date so that you are closer to the birthing center.
Perhaps you want a home birth but your state deems midwives illegal. Outside of traveling to a different state, you would have to choose a different location for your birth. Distance doesn’t have to be a deciding factor but sometimes it has to be.
Low Risk or High Risk Pregnancy
If you are a high risk pregnancy then a hospital birth might be your only option. However, don’t instantly think that because you are high risk that a hospital is the only choice, sometimes it just depends on why you are high risk or the personal decision of your doctor or midwife.
For instance, many women who want to attempt a VBAC cannot find a midwife to do a home birth for them. However that doesn’t mean that there are not midwives out there who do VBAC home births; there just might not be many.
Cesarean section rates/Intervention rates
This generally applies only to hospitals but it is something important to consider if you have chosen a hospital birth. Assuming you want a natural birth (or at very least a vaginal birth and not a cesarean) then you will want to check out the hospital’s rates of cesareans and interventions.
Checking these rates will give you an idea of how likely a natural or vaginal birth will be. A hospital with a 50% cesarean rate for instance, would not be the best place to go to.
Of course, as with all hospitals, you have the right to refuse any procedure but the higher the intervention rates, the harder it probably will be to fight interventions if you want a natural birth.
Deciding where to have your baby is an important decision. It has taken me 3 babies to realize what I really want! The point is to fully consider what you truly want in a delivery and then put your best effort into making sure it can happen.