Choosing a Place of Birth: What You Need to Know



Why is choosing a place of birth one of the most important maternity decisions I will make?

How is my choice of a place of birth related to my choice of caregiver?

What are some insufficient reasons for choosing a place of birth?

How do types of places of birth differ from one another?

What if I change my mind and want to switch to another place of birth?




Why is choosing a place of birth one of the most important maternity decisions I will make?

Early in your pregnancy, when you are deciding about your maternity caregiver, it is also important to make a thoughtful decision about where you plan to give birth, or your place of birth. These major decisions can influence:
  • the care that you receive and the effects of that care
  • the quality of your relationship with your main and other caregivers
  • the amount of information you receive
  • the choices and options you will have, particularly during your labor and birth
  • the degree to which you are involved with decisions about your care.
If you are a well and healthy childbearing woman (as are most pregnant women in the U.S.), you can consider giving birth in a hospital, an out-of-hospital birth center, or in your home. Our section titled Your Options for Choosing a Place of Birth will help you learn about these three choices, and learn about differences that you may find from hospital to hospital or birth center to birth center. This and other pages in this section can help you find the birth setting that is right for you.

It may take some time and energy to find the right place of birth and caregiver. These important decisions are well worth the effort.

How is my choice of a place of birth related to my choice of caregiver?

Places of birth and caregivers usually go hand in hand. As you explore your different options, you will want to decide on a place of birth that has caregivers that will meet your needs - in pregnancy, during labor and birth, and after birth. For example, if you decide to give birth in a hospital, you must choose as your caregiver a physician or, if available, a midwife who practices there. Most caregivers who work in out-of-hospital birth centers or who offer home birth services are midwives, and physicians occasionally attend births in these places of birth. When choosing a place of birth, it is also important to think about choosing a caregiver that is right for you.

What are important considerations when choosing a place of birth?

The following are signs of an excellent choice of a place of birth:
  • place of birth offers care that is consistent with the best available research about safe and effective care
  • the environment and practices in the birth setting enhance, rather than disrupt, the physiology of pregnancy and birth - your body is finely tuned to do this work; some things support this work, while others interfere with it
  • the birth setting staff are committed and able to provide you with lots of support, including comfort and information
  • the place of birth offers individualized care that considers the health needs of you and your baby and your personal preferences and values.

What are some insufficient reasons for choosing a place of birth?

It is not wise to select a place of birth solely because:
  • it is near your home or workplace - convenience is nice, but you may need to travel further to find the right setting
  • you know someone who used that place of birth - even if recommended by a friend or relative, you need to be sure that a place of birth will meet your needs and values and reflects the best available research
  • your family has used a particular hospital for other types of care - you need to learn about a hospital's maternity policies and practices, and about other maternity care options, before making your decision.

How do types of places of birth differ from one another?

In making your decision, keep in mind that places of birth can vary in important ways:
  • philosophy of birth
  • style of practice within the place of birth - this includes the amount of time caregivers spend with you, the amount of information you receive, your involvement in decision-making, and patterns of using interventions
  • caregivers - a limited number of caregivers practice in any one place of birth
  • whether specific places of birth are an option in your area - an out-of-hospital birth center or caregivers offering home birth services may not be available in some areas
  • whether your insurance will cover the services of a particular setting.

What if I change my mind and want to switch to another place of birth?

As time goes on, you will learn more about your needs and about the place of birth and caregiver that you have chosen. If you have concerns and have not been able to resolve them through open and respectful communication, you may begin to wonder if you have made the right choice(s). Do not hesitate to explore other options. Even if it is late in your pregnancy, you can switch if:
  • you have enough time to explore options and find a situation that you believe will work better for you
  • the new place of birth or caregiver has no policies that prevent you from making this change at that time in your pregnancy
  • your insurance will cover the new arrangements, or you are willing and able to pay out of pocket.

You may have to change your place of birth and/or caregiver to get what you want.

Next >
Your Options for Choosing a Place of Birth

Most recent page update: 11/16/2012


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Founded in 1918, Childbirth Connection has joined forces with and become a core program of the National Partnership for Women & Families. Together, these two women's health powerhouses are transforming maternity care in the United States.
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