Pros and Cons of Birthing Centers

Gabrielle Applebury
Pregnant Woman inside of a birthing pool

Choosing whether to give birth at a birthing center is a deeply personal decision and you may find it difficult to figure out what's best for you and your growing little one. Understanding the philosophy behind birthing centers can help you decide if this path is best for you.

What Birthing Centers Offer

Birthing centers operate on the notion that the birthing process should be natural and led by the pregnant patient. Birthing centers are more flexible when it comes to your wants and needs during the labor process. This means that there will be more freedom in deciding who is present during your birth and how you'd like to give birth. After delivery, birthing centers may transfer you to the hospital if you or your little one need a higher level of care that's beyond a normal delivery.

When to Go With a Birthing Center

Birthing centers work well for women who:

  • Want to take charge of their delivery and include as many people as they wish
  • Want to deliver in a homier setting with the option for water birth
  • Want to be able to listen to their bodies and eat and drink when hungry or thirsty
  • Want to wear their own clothes, birth in whatever position feels best, and move around frequently during labor
  • Want to get discharged the day of the delivery and head home
  • Want to use non-medical interventions for pain relief, although some birthing centers will offer IV pain medication if wanted
  • Want to work with the same midwife, doula, and nurse throughout the pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum process

Why a Birthing Center May Not be the Best Choice

Birthing centers do not work well for those who have high-risk pregnancies or other medical conditions that can lead to labor complications. This can include high blood pressure, preeclampsia, Lupus, and diabetes. Women carrying multiples are also considered higher risk. In these cases hospital delivery is typically recommended, although there are a few high risk birthing centers available.

How Much Does a Birthing Center Cost?

Birthing centers tend to be less expensive than hospital births, ranging from around $2,000 to $4,000 depending on your location which can be thousands less than a hospital birth. Birthing centers may also be covered by your insurance, but that will depend on the company so it's best to check in with them beforehand.

Birthing Center Versus Hospital

In a hospital setting the doctor, nurses, and staff are viewed as the experts, and although the patient will have some choices, the hierarchy is different from a birthing center. For some, there is comfort in knowing that a doctor or nurse will be running the show and is there to support you during the birthing process.

Medication Options

In a hospital you will also have access to pain management medication, while in a birthing center you may only have access to nitrous oxide, massage, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy. So, if you're worried about possibly wanting an epidural, you may want to lean more towards a hospital birth so you can leave that as a pain management option.

Monitoring in Hospitals

In a hospital, your eating and drinking will be limited during labor in case an emergency surgery is needed. You will also be kept for two to three days to monitor you and the baby postpartum.

Birthing Center Versus Home Birth

In a home birth, you will get to deliver in your own space which can feel comforting. You will have more control over your environment and may find the familiarity of your own home to be the best option for you. Home births, like birthing center births will still require a midwife, nurse, or obstetrician for assistance with delivery. Home births cost between $4,000 to $8,000 but that includes pre and postnatal care, as well as the delivery. Home births will typically not allow for as much around the clock care as a birthing center would, but home births will offer a more private setting. Many birthing centers may have oxygen and pitocin available while that is less likely the case with a home birth.

Deciding Where to Give Birth

If you're on the fence about where to give birth, keep in mind that you can take your time to really think about what the best decision for you is. Birthing centers can offer a wonderful, natural experience and are a great option for those who are expecting a low risk delivery.

Pros and Cons of Birthing Centers