Today women have choices that weren’t available even 10 years ago. Just 100 years ago most (95%) of all births happened at home. That trend slowly moved toward birthing in hospitals. However in the 1970’s women found that the conditions, although safe, were sterile and uninviting.
Hospital environments were set up to make the caregiver most comfortable while providing medical care to both the mother and child. But these environments didn’t account for the needs or desires of the expectant mother’s family, spouse and other children.
Birthing centers seemed to have the answer. Their mission was to help the woman have her newborn child in an environment that was safe, sterile and yet home-like; inviting the participation of any and all family members who wanted to be there.
The choice of a birthing center vs. hospital birth lies with the expectant mother. Research doesn’t appear to give new mothers a clear cut answer as to which choice offers the best medical care for both mother and baby.
Asking other women garners the same range of opinions. There are pro’s and con’s to delivering a baby at home, in a birthing center or a hospital. The bottom line is that the choice really boils down to the opinions and beliefs of the expectant mother and the people who influence her decisions.
Hospital Birth Pros and Cons
The most traditional method is to deliver in a hospital with the obvious benefits of having emergency medical care immediately available as well as choices for pain control and adequate support for high risk health issues.
In many cases however, delivering a baby in the hospital means lack of privacy in a stressful environment where the professionals are strangers to the expectant mother.
Delivering a baby in a hospital also means that medical interventions are harder to avoid, moms can’t eat or drink during labor and the rate of cesarean section is highest of all three places.
In defense of hospitals it should also be pointed out that the percentage of woman who deliver using cesarean section compared to the other two choices may be artificially elevated because women who are high risk deliveries don’t deliver at home or birthing centers.
Birthing Center Pros and Cons
A birthing center vs. hospital delivery of a baby has fewer medical interventions, have professionals that are familiar to the mother and family, have natural pain relief options and more freedom of movement during the labor and delivery process.
However, delivering in a birthing center means that moms don’t have immediate access to anesthesia and may not have insurance coverage to a birthing center. Typically women leave the birthing center within 6-10 hours after birth and may have to transfer from the center to a hospital if emergency care is needed for complications.
Home Delivery Pros and Cons
With the increasing popularity of doulas, labor coaches and midwives who do home deliveries more and more women are choosing to deliver their babies at home. A home delivery has the advantage of a more relaxed environment, no restrictions on eating or positioning and no limits placed on the length of labor before medical intervention.
This location has the lowest risk of infection to mother and baby of all three possible birthing places and has the lowest rate of cesarean sections.
During a home delivery the expectant mother doesn’t have access to analgesia (pain medication) or anesthesia. A home-birth also requires transfer to a hospital if mother or baby needs medical care above what can be administered at home.
Pain relief options are limited and home-births aren’t often covered by insurance companies – the doula, coach or midwive.
In choosing the options of home delivery or birthing center vs hospital delivery expectant mothers need to weigh their beliefs, their perceived birth risk and other financial issues to choose the option that best meets the needs of themselves and their new baby.
Most obstetricians recommend a hospital delivery for moms who are perceived to be high risk deliveries or who are carrying children who require immediate medical care after delivery.