Birthing Centers: Quick Guide
Return To Main Guide
|What Are Birthing Centers?
Also known as childbearing centers and maternity homes, birthing centers are independent homelike settings which offer a low-tech personalized location for delivery and childbirth. Many centers also offer prenatal appointments, birthing classes and breastfeeding classes. Birthing centers located in hospitals usually only offer childbirth facilities. Expectant mothers enjoy the privacy of their own birthing room, where they can stay in the same bed from labor through to recovery. A kitchen may also be available for mom or the family's use. The rooms are usually tastefully decorated with soft lighting, hot tubs and vibrant showers. Birthing centers are usually staffed by midwives but also have OB/GYNs on call. Many are located within minutes of hospitals in case of emergencies, although they often have medical equipment for interventions on hand. A pediatrician usually examines the baby before discharge. Sometimes a nurse from the center visits the infant at home several times during the first 2 weeks after birth.
No. Only pregnant women where there is a low risk of pregnancy complications are good candidates for birthing centers. Twins, breech babies and vaginal births after cesarean section (VBAC) are not allowed to be delivered at non-hospital located (free standing) birth centers. Other high-risk situations which are not suitable for a birth center include women with diabetes requiring insulin, chronic high blood pressure, placenta previa, pregnancy induced preeclampsia/hypertension or women expecting babies with birth defects. Natural, non-medicated births are the focus, and though some mild medications may be available, epidural pain relief is not. Additionally, labor will never be induced with oxytocin (Pitocin) and a c-section delivery is not performed. However, most centers are equipped with IVs, oxygen and infant resuscitation equipment and can provide emergency care until transfer to a hospital.
Assuming you are in a low pregnancy risk category, it is worth investigating the following benefits of having your baby delivered in a birthing center:
1. Comfortable environment, a pleasant alternative to the clinical setting of a hospital.
5. Routine episiotomies (a surgical cut to enlarge the vaginal opening) are not performed. Instead warm perineal compresses and oils are applied during birth to ease the passage of the babies head, minimizing tears. Where necessary however episiotomies can be performed and repairs of cuts can be carried out.
Generally birthing centers are less costly than hospitals because stays are shorter and medical interventions fewer. The average cost is usually one third to a half less than a hospital stay. Many insurance companies offer reimbursement for birthing centers, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Humana, Aetna/US Healthcare and CHAMPUS. Your local birthing center will help you determine what your health plan covers. If you are not covered by insurance, do ask if the birth center accepts alternative payment arrangements such as a sliding scale or timed payments.
Important criteria for choosing a birthing center:
1. Is it accredited by the American Association of Birth Centers? Check their website to locate an approved Center in your State: www.birthcenters.org/find-a-birth-center
Follow our pregnancy guide for more about symptoms, questions, trimesters, travel tips in the third trimester.
For more about caring for your body when expecting, see:
• Paternity Testing - Checking the DNA of child and father. Over 400,000 tests were taken in the USA in 2008 alone.
Back To Homepage: Womens Health Advice