The answer to this question is complicated and comes up at different times in your pregnancy. First, it's important to understand that birthing centers and midwifery are different. Midwives and birth centers tend to offer slightly different levels of care, but this difference is not important to deciding whether a birthing center is right for you. What is important is the level of support you will get in your birth environment and how comfortable you are with the support you will receive.
What is a birthing center?
A birthing center is a specialized, often private, setting where you will have access to many different types of support providers during your birth. Birthing centers can vary from one facility to the next. Some of these centers are completely private, and are attended by midwives and/or nurses; some are public and staffed by physicians, and some are hybrid centers that offer both private and public care. The decision to use a birthing center versus a hospital depends on a few factors, including: your preference; the birthing center's accreditation status; and the availability of midwives and other providers (eg, physician assistants, nurses, and doulas).
Can I receive pain medication at a birthing center?
Medications are available at most birthing centers, but only if requested. If you are a candidate for epidural anesthesia, most centers will offer you this option. If you decide that you would like an epidural, most centers will offer a verbal consent process (with a nurse or physician asking for your verbal consent) and a written consent form to sign at the end of the process. The verbal consent process can occur after your physician explains to you the potential benefits and risks of the epidural process.
Why might a woman decide to give birth at a birthing center?
Birthing centers provide a safe and effective alternative to hospital birth for many women who desire to give birth at a birthing center. Birthing centers are staffed with specially trained and highly skilled professionals. These professionals usually include, but are not limited to, nurses, physicians, and doulas. Birthing centers provide a comfortable, private and quiet environment in which you will be able to give birth in an upright position, allowing you to rest, relax, and give birth naturally.
What is a hospital birth center?
A hospital birth center is a specialty obstetrical care center, where you deliver your baby in a hospital-like environment. Your caregiver will be a trained professional in birth and newborn care, which will include education on how to support and care for you and your newborn.
What are the benefits to giving birth at a hospital?
If you decide that birthing in a hospital is right for you, you will have the benefit of having a provider who is prepared to provide emergency obstetric care, as well as other services such as anesthesia, labor and delivery, and postpartum care. Also, they will be ready to handle any complications that may arise during delivery.
When making your decision of think of these questions
1. How do I feel about being in labor and delivery?
2. How comfortable do I feel with the medical team that will be caring for me?
3. What will my options be for pain relief?
4. What type of care will I receive?
5. How will I be monitored?
6. What is my plan for my baby’s arrival?
7. How will my labor be managed?
8. What kind of an environment will I be in?
It is very important to make sure you answer the question of which is better birthing center or hospital birth yourself. There is no one answer that works for everyone. Some women love their hospitals and some don’t. There are birthing centers that will be the very best for some women and not for others. The most important thing to remember is that this is your choice. It is completely up to you what kind of birth you want to have. Some women prefer a hospital birth, others want a midwife-led center birth. It is not one size fits all. There are a lot of birth centers out there, and many of them would be willing to work with you to find the birth center that is right for you.