Planning Ahead: Choosing Where to Deliver

The pros and cons of delivering at the hospital, birthing center, and at home.


Just like in real estate, delivery is all about location, location, location. Whether you feel reassured in a medical environment, at ease in a birthing center or more comfortable in your own home, where you decide to give birth to your baby is up to you.


If complications arise (and even if they don’t), you’ll be at the right place at the right time in a hospital. And if you’re banking on getting that epidural (or if any risks are involved with your pregnancy, such as diabetes or early labor), a hospital is the way to go.

• Modern medical equipment is at your disposal.

• If you want a warmer atmosphere, ask if they have birthing rooms.

Birthing Center

Best for those with low-risk pregnancies, these centers often have the feel of a cozy inn or a nice home with a relaxed atmosphere. There are fewer procedures that happen at a birth center (such as electronic fetal monitoring or IVs), but they have a system in place for when problems arise so they can transfer laboring moms to a hospital. Natural births are the focus, allowing moms to be more proactive in the birthing process (she can squat or push on her hands and knees — whatever feels comfortable to her to get the baby out).

• Usually run by midwives and nurses, women stay in the same room in which they give birth.

• Birthing centers do not typically administer pain medications.

• Look for one that is accredited and/or licensed; not all states require that they be licensed, but they should be accredited.

At Home

Home births are an option for those who feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings.

NOTE: Most malpractice insurance will not allow a physician to do a home birth. It is usually required that they practice in a hospital setting, unless they are in a rural area and a hospital is not nearby.

All attention is on you, plus many women feel more in control. You will be able to move around, eat, drink, be with your family and labor in a relaxing atmosphere. It’s important to remember that giving birth at home is only for healthy moms who have had a normal pregnancy and are considered low-risk. Check with your insurance company to see if they cover the cost of a home birth and consider hiring a postpartum doula to help out after the birth. (Consider registering at a local hospital – just in case.)

• Choose a trusted certified nurse-midwife or physician who is experienced in attending births in a non-medical facility.

• Pain medication is not administered in home births.

• Be sure to discuss this option with your OB or certified midwife — and have a backup plan in case complications arise and you need to go to the hospital.

The choice of where to deliver is yours. If your health care practitioner is pressuring you to deliver in a location that makes you feel uncomfortable, do not hesitate to find a practitioner who supports your wishes.

This article was reviewed by Anthony Chin, MD. Dr. Chin is an OB/GYN in Beverly Hills, California.