A Comparison of Birthing Settings: Home, Hospital and Birthing Center Births

resting after birth

Written by Erin Odom, Contributing Writer

With all this talk of birthing babies around here at Keeper of the Home, I asked Stephanie if I could compare three common birth settings: home, hospital and birthing center births.*

Whereas a home birth may seem the most natural choice for natural mamas, all three settings have their pros and cons and should be compared, evaluated and prayed through thoroughly before making a decision on where to birth your baby. 

homebirth midwife checkup

Image by eyeliam

Home Birth

The most natural setting of all three, a home birth is the ideal environment for mothers who want complete privacy and control of their birthing experience.

Pros:

  • All of the comforts of home are available (own bed, bathtub, food, etc.)
  • Complete freedom for birthing position (kneeling, squatting, all fours, in or out of water, etc.)
  • Ambience of choice (Candles anyone? No fire codes to violate here!)
  • No restrictions on birth witnesses–from your hubby to your grandma to your toddler
  • No time constraints (Often, a hospital sets a time limit on how long they will allow a woman to labor–usually 12 to 24 hours–before interventions.)
  • Privacy: No medical team of doctors and nurses running in and out of the room
  • Much lower cost than other birth settings
  • Best bet for a completely natural birth: The setting itself, well, sets itself up for this!

homebirth in bed

Image by eyeliam

Cons:

  • If an emergency arises (which is rare), you must leave and be transported to a hospital.
  • If you have other young children and no one to help you take care of them for a few days, resting may prove difficult, although if you have help, resting in the comfort of your own home is best (and actually more restful). (Hopefully, most people have help!)
  • Even though the cost is lower, some insurance companies do not cover home births. You must weigh whether or not your family can afford the out-of-pocket expense of the home birth versus what your insurance will cover in another setting.

Why have a home birth?

If you desire privacy and complete birthing freedom, a home birth may be your best option.

father and baby

Image by intruso4

Reasons not to have a home birth:

  • If you are a high-risk pregnancy: Midwives are trained to access your risk factors, and some even have back-up doctors that will evaluate their patients as well if anything is in question. If either the mother or unborn child has any known serious medical conditions, a homebirth may not be a good choice. 
  • If you or your husband are fearful about it: One emotion that can hinder a natural birth is fear. If you are fearful in your setting, no matter how natural it is, you will be less likely to achieve an unmedicated birth. Although studies have shown home birth to be safe, only you know whether or not you feel comfortable in this setting.
  • If homebirths are illegal in your state, you may want to seriously consider the pros and cons of breaking the law. Some states allow unassisted births but not births with certified professional midwives (I know–where’s the logic in that?). Know the law, pray through your decision, and stick to your convictions in the matter. (And if you don’t like the law…do your best to try to change it by writing your state representatives with the research that shows the safety of home birth!)

Home Birth Stories: Babykin’s Birth Story @Creative Christian MamaZachary’s Story @Raising Leaves , Landon’s Story @The Joys & Woes of Motherhood, My Son was Born in a Kiddie Pool @Venison for Dinner, Caden’s Birth Story and Johanna’s Birth Story @ Keeper of the Home.

birthing tub

Image used with permission by Intentional by Grace

Birthing Center

If you desire a homelike setting away from home, a birthing center may be the place for you.

Pros:

  • Homelike: Most have good-sized beds (not hospital beds) and tubs and are attractively decorated. 
  • Some medical interventions are available–if needed. 
  • Most are housed near (or even attached) to a hospital in case an emergency arises.
  • More freedom than in a hospital setting (for changing positions, etc.)
  • Less expensive than a hospital birth
  • High chance of achieving a natural birth
  • Go home the same day as birth

water birth

Image used with permission by Intentional by Grace

Cons:

  • You must travel to birth center (Bumpy ride during contractions!).
  • If not accredited, your insurance may not cover it.
  • Going home the same day may be a pro but it can also be a con if you do not have anyone at home to help care for you and the baby.

Why have a birthing center birth?

If you are fearful of a home birth but want a home-like setting, a birthing center may be the perfect setting for you. 

Reasons not to have a birthing center birth:

  • You are a high-risk pregnancy.
  • You want to spend the night in your birth setting.
  • Your insurance does not cover it, and you cannot afford to pay out of pocket.

Birthing Center Stories: Samuel’s Story @Intentional by Grace (pics above!)

hospital birth

Hospital Birth

Is it possible to achieve a natural birth in a hospital setting? Absolutely! But, be warned, it does take more work. What do I mean by that?

Let me explain. I’ve had two hospital births. Granted, they were in two different hospitals, in two different states, but I didn’t prepare at all for my first birth. I had grown up hearing stories of my mother’s quick and easy natural births…and I just assumed I would be the same way. Was I ever wrong!

I was able to deliver vaginally–but after 16 hours of being confined to a bed, pumped with pitocin, hooked up to a catheter–and with an epidural in my back (after hallucinating on another pain medication). No, my first birth was anything but natural.

I studied and prepared for a natural labor my entire second pregnancy….and I achieved just that. But it took preparing myself for opposition (most hospitals are not accustomed to natural labors), using a midwife, hiring a doula and the support of my husband and a massage therapist friend.

But I did have a wonderful experience (I labored at home except for the last 4 hours, spent much of the time at the hospital in the hot shower, and I even got to pull her out myself and let her do the breast crawl!). I’m now preparing for my third birth in that same hospital with the same midwife and same doula.

See also: How to Have Natural Childbirth in the Hospital

baby being born

Image by aleheredia

Pros:

  • Any and all medical interventions needed in case of an emergency.
  • Can stay overnight and rest. (But this can also be a huge con if you hate hospitals!)
  • NICUs available if there is a problem with the baby.
  • Insurances typically always cover hospital births.

Cons:

  • You must travel to the hosptial.
  • Depending on the facility, hospitals are usually much more restrictive on birth positions.
  • The ambience is not home like in the least.
  • Limited privacy (especially during delivery).
  • Least likely setting to achieve a natural labor, as interventions can often be pushed (even when unnecessary).
  • Must stay overnight (or longer) for observation. And tests on your baby may be required (Although you can sometimes decline tests and especially vaccines, such as the Hep B and Vitamin K shots.)
  • The food is usually bad (HFCS in your yogurt, anyone?).
screaming baby
Image by tkobosz

So why am I personally having a hospital birth?

1. My husband does not currently feel comfortable with homebirths. I am to be submissive to him. For that reason, I haven’t even given it much thought.

2. My insurance doesn’t cover other settings. (And we did look into a brand new birthing center in our county, but, sadly, it won’t be accredited until 3 months after our birth, so our insurance won’t cover it either.)

3. Homebirths with CPMs are illegal in my state. (And there are no CNMs in our area that deliver in homes.)

I found these resources to be incredibly helpful while preparing for childbirth:

Hospital Birth Stories: Labor & Delivery the Quick, Easy, Cheap & Healthy Way, my own hospital birth story, Emily’s story

*Although I only have firsthand knowledge of hospital births, I spent hours of research on various birth settings (including interviews with women who had birthed in all different settings and both hospital and homebirth midwives) for an article I wrote about the uproar of the arrest of a midwife in my state in the spring of 2011. I used much of that research in writing this post.

What birth setting did you choose: home, hospital or a birthing center? Why did you choose that birth setting?

Top Image by cpopp77

About Erin O

Erin is a follower of Jesus, wife to Will and mommy to three little redheaded girls (born in 2008, 2010 and 2012). She is a life-long, professional dreamer and recovering overwhelmed homemaker. Her mission is to encourage, educate and empower her readers at The Humbled Homemaker to live a grace-filled, natural life. She is the author of a 200+-page eBook all about cloth diapering-- Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert: A Simple, Comprehensive Guide to Using Cloth Diapers.

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Comments

  1. I am all for home births and birthing centers – but I think it is absolutely imperative to point something out.

    If you are having a home birth and are NOT within 5-10 minutes of a hospital – the baby is seriously at risk in the case of an emergency. Emergency vehicles are NOT equipped with the proper resuscitation devices for a tiny newborn. For this reason alone, I have foregone my home birthing plan. I don’t begrudge anyone that chooses to have a home birth, but for me, personally, it’s too risky.

  2. Stumbled onto this site this morning. Appreciated your straightforward and honest discussion of birth settings. I am a Christian homebirth midwife and also teach Birthing Classes and do Monitrice/Doula support for families choosing hospital births. Many of the families that I support in hospital are VBAC, twins or breech desiring vaginal births. It is wonderful to find this site, thank you.
    Warmly in Him,
    Rebecca

  3. I really like that there is some comparison of the three settings. However, I get really irritated at people who give hospitals a bad name. I have been a labor and delivery RN for 12 years and I personally LOVE natural births. Obviously it depends on the hospital, and your doctor. So therefore people should RESEARCH and ASK questions of their doctor BEFORE they deliver. I educate my patients as best I can and I am a patient advocate. But if you have no clue to begin with, that is not MY fault. There are reasons things need to be done and I don’t work with any doctor that uses interventions just because. So, there are ALOT of assumptions on people’s part. Especially when they don’t know what is going on, what the process is about, or how it works. Many hospitals have upgraded and are very family friendly. I am just saying, before you assume, ask around and visit !

    • Thanks for the comments, Kari! I am the author, and I personally have LOVED my two natural hospital births–LOVED them! I gave birth to my 3rd after this was written. I was blessed with the self-proclaimed “crunchy” nursing team. I was only at the hospital for an hour before her birth, but they were AMAZING! I got up and pushed on my hands and knees. Two perfect, natural hospital births!

  4. Katie Lemos says:

    I know a lot of you love home births, but I just can’t recommend them. I have been present at two and both ended in tragedy. In the first the mom lost so much blood that she ended up in ICU, unconscious for three weeks. In the second, the couple opted not to have a midwife. They figured their friend who was a nurse but who had no experience with labor and delivery would be just fine. After all, it’s a natural process. When the baby was born the cord was wrapped around her neck. The nurse and parents didn’t know what to do. By the time they got the baby to the hospital she had no signs of life. They put her in the NICU and three days later, after detecting no brain waves, they had to take her off life support and let her die. This could have been prevented if the baby had been born in a hospital.

    I am due with my second child in December. I will be having my baby in a hospital with an epidural. With my first, I did not feel as though my wishes were ignored. But I had to state my wishes. I had to speak up and say this is what I want. My dr and the hospital were very willing to let me guide the birthing process. Research your dr. Interview him. If you don’t like him, change. You’re not married to the guy. Do the same with the hospital. Hospitals aren’t alien motherships. They don’t have to be unpleasant. You can have a perfectly wonderful birth and get medical care if it’s needed. But you have to be willing to open your mouth and speak up.

    • Thanks for your input–and congrats on your new baby! I personally prefer hospital births. I’ve had 3! I love the care the nurses can give you postpartum. I’ve used a doula and midwives for my 2nd and 3rd births and had two great natural births.

    • I know it is rare that homebirths go wrong, but if it does it makes sense to be in a place that can help. The best thing that I can say is to have an amazing midwife, like my BFF Jeri, that is consicientious and would not risk any mother or baby if things seemed bad and needed to be transported. That is the key. Sometimes things go to hell in a handbasket no matter what. I agree it is a person’s choice and I respect that EDUCATED choice! (Stressing the EDUCATED part!)

  5. I have had three very wonderful births at home with my amazing midwife& wouldn’t have it any other way. Unfortunately a lot of people are pretty uneducated when it comes to home birth & think it is unsafe or crazy. I find it sad that people think they know about laboring and birth when really they don’t. I respect everyones choice in how the have their babies rather it be at home, a birthing center, or a hospital. I feel the most important thing is that you feel comfortable with where and how you give birth. For me it is natural at home in my natural and safe setting. It is interesting that when you look it up home births are considered the safest way to birth despite what many think.

  6. Erin, this is an excellent and well-written article/post! I would like to feature it on my ‘Encourage One Another’ Wednesday Link-up tomorrow! I am blessed by it, and it brings back so many memories of our 3 high-risk births (in the hospital)! I wish I could have done it at home, but it just wasn’t His will ~and I’m OK with that. I hope it will be helpful to those just now thinking about their options.

  7. I have two little girls (2.5 and 8 months) who were both born in the hospital using a CNM (certified nurse midwife). Homebirth is not an option for us as it is illegal in our state, and neither my husband or I feels comfortable with the idea. We’ve known several people (including 2 from our church and a close family member) who have lost babies during homebirths from causes that could have been avoided had they been in a hospital with emergency medical assistance, so we just aren’t interested. We have our births at a Catholic hospital (which may make a world of difference) but we never had any trouble doing anything we wanted during our births. I wrote a birth plan both times which my midwife put on file for me, and the nurses respected it and went with it with only minimal instruction from the midwife. She did everything I wanted, and I was allowed to be in the tub, labor and push in any position I wanted, drink when I wanted, etc. I was never pushed to have any medication, IVs, intervention, etc. My first birth was entirely natural, my second I had an epidural which I asked for (and the midwife actually tried to talk me out of…but looking back I’m very glad I had since my baby was born with the cord around her neck 4 TIMES and the pain of having her turned was bad, even WITH the epidural!!). My experiences were wonderful, I love getting away from home for a few days to rest (they take care of me and I don’t feel guilty watching the dishes and laundry pile up), and I feel very safe and cared for in a hospital setting, knowing that if I need an intervention I can get one immediately. The women’s center in our hospital actually has a spa (having a massage the day after having a baby is WONDERFUL!) and it’s own cafe that makes delicious, home-style meals (no icky cafeteria food for the new mamas!!)…take a tour of the women’s centers in your local hospitals and you may be surprised at how homey and comfy they really are…quite unlike the rest of the hospital. I know not all hospitals/doctors/CNMs are created equal, and I know that some people have had horrible hospital births, but I would encourage women not to assume that just because you’re having a hospital birth it’s going to be horrible, and you’ll have to fight the whole time to get what you want. I haven’t at all had that experience! :) If you have multiple hospitals in your area, I would suggest you check with as many people as you can find to talk to, and see if one is more highly recommended as more family/natural birth friendly, and give it a try! Good luck with your births, whatever method you chose! :)

  8. Great information!! I wrote about my homebirth VBAC on my blog. Please come and take a look. Feel free to add it to your list of homebirths.
    http://sistersplayinghouse.blogspot.com/p/homebirth-story.html

  9. Thanks for this post! I just had a wonderful natural birth in a hospital six days ago. I wouldn’t change anything about it!

  10. I planned on having my first at the local birth center, with a good friend who also happens to be a doula helping me. My midwife was fantastic and though I had a few days where I needed a little extra rest, everything was moving along fine. But a little more than a week before my due date, the young son of a family I’ve known forever was involved in an accident. He spent several days in the hospital before God took him home, just a few days before his birthday, which happened to be the same as my due date.
    My water broke and I went into labor the day of his funeral, which I had hoped to attend. Though everything had been going fairly well up until a few hours before the funeral, I had trouble dilating the last inch and then was unable to push her out (even though my body wanted to and I tried really hard). My midwife made the call to transfer me to the hospital and I ended up with a C-section. My daughter was one of the healthiest C-sections my midwife had ever seen, though her head was a little swollen and bruised from where she’d been stuck in my pelvis.
    Though I kind of have one of those “horror” stories, my midwife and I talked about it at few weeks later and she’s fairly convinced that the emotional stress of the little friend’s death was the primary reason I had trouble. She told me she didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be able to have a VBAC with my next child and when my husband and I are financially ready for that, we’re going to look into that more seriously.
    On a positive note, my experience at the birth center was a good one and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable with the women there. Plus the care that my midwife gave me after the birth (visiting me several times at home to check on our recovery) was wonderful.

  11. Just about the dads, I think that women are a mystery to most men and birth just multiplies this! My DH was skeptical at the idea of home birth (as was I! I just wanted a midwife, and found an awesome one and she did home births! :). My midwife came to our house and answered all of DH’s worst case scenario questions. We went to 12 weeks of a Bradley natural birthing classes “Husband Coached Childbirth”. My husband LOVED learning the science of birth and babies. We watched “Business of Being Born” (Caution, there is some birthing nudity). He was an amazing support in birth! I had 42 hours of labor and he never left my side. We transferred to the hospital for multiple necessary, but non-emergent reasons. My DH was a rock. My midwife became my doula and the nursing staff was extremely supportive and compassionate. I feel so blessed. I still cringe to think of some strange doctor threatening, lecturing, bullying, and manipulating me. I had a bit of post traumatic stress from that. My wishes were respected 100% with my baby. The hospital was totally pro breastfeeding. Baby roomed in. A nurse taught me how to breastfeed lying down and encouraged me to co-sleep!!! With our second home birth attempt, my labor was going slow and I kept my birthing team away, until everything went super fast and my baby was born into her Daddy’s hands!!

    My husband is totally supportive of home birth. He TRUSTS birth, women’s bodies, God’s design, etc. I do too.

    My mother in law is a different story.

    • Sounds like you have a very supportive hubby! Thanks for the caution on Business of Being Born! I should have warned about that….and Orgasmic Birth (wish they had named that one something different….I whisper it if I tell friends about it out loud!). Both are great videos to watch to prepare, but my hubby had to turn his head quite a bit!

      • My husband is amazingly supportive and I do not expect all men to be like him, but I was trying to say that I think most men are coming from a place of fear of the unknown and total lack of control in dealing with birth, especially outside of societies boundaries. But I truly believe that approaching husbands gently and encouraging them to learn with you about birth can bring husbands to a totally different place. I believe husbands are the head of the family, but I would have struggled quite a bit if my husband had refused me the opportunity to birth in a place I felt safe with a person I trusted, especially before thoroughly researching safety and options. I am so thankful I didn’t have to face that. I think a loving husband will be able to see, a bit, that he has a lot to learn about birth and may be open to exploring that with you more before making a firm decision.

  12. “If homebirths are illegal in your state, you may want to seriously consider the pros and cons of breaking the law. Some states allow unassisted births but not births with certified professional midwives (I know–where’s the logic in that?).”

    I live in such a state and had a child at home, and at least in NC, the only person breaking the law in the house was my certified professional midwife for practicing medicine without a license (she is licensed in another state).

    I could be wrong, but I believe that it is not illegal for the mother to give birth outside the hospital in any state – women may accidentally give birth at home or on the road, and it would be silly for them to be prosecuted for something they had no control over.

    Just wanted to clarify a point that may be confusing to people not familiar with the legal ramifications of home birth.

    • Thanks for the clarification. You are correct in that the mother wouldn’t be held liable; however, the midwife could face real prosecution charges (unfortunately). If you live in NC, I am sure you are familiar with several arrests (again, unfortunately) over the past year alone. Every family must weigh the risks that their midwife could potentially be prosecuted if caught. Hopefully, with continued advocacy, this won’t be an issue in years to come, but it is something for families to be aware of.

      • My husband is amazingly supportive and I do not expect all men to be like him, but I was trying to say that I think most men are coming from a place of fear of the unknown and total lack of control in dealing with birth, especially outside of societies boundaries. But I truly believe that approaching husbands gently and encouraging them to learn with you about birth can bring husbands to a totally different place. I believe husbands are the head of the family, but I would have struggled quite a bit if my husband had refused me the opportunity to birth in a place I felt safe with a person I trusted, especially before thoroughly researching safety and options. I am so thankful I didn’t have to face that. I think a loving husband will be able to see, a bit, that he has a lot to learn about birth and may be open to exploring that with you more before making a firm decision.

  13. I would have to say that to each their own as I know some women who are very critical of those who have anything but a home birth. I had my son in the hospital and was induced using Cervidil, but my water broke on its own and I delivered without any other medication. The nurses let me labor in any position I wanted including in the whirlpool even after my water broke and were super supportive of me trying without medication. I kept my options open because I knew that if I couldn’t stand to go through the pain, there were things that could be done. I am now just a few weeks away from my second baby being born and am going to be at a different hospital with a CNM and looking forward to labor and delivery (its been a rough pregnancy).

    I am just not comfortable with a home delivery for the simple fact I know I wouldn’t be able to relax knowing that the house is a mess, or its laundry day or the family needs something to eat, and I don’t want to give birth in my bed. I don’t mind the interruptions of blood pressure checks or things like that as who gets much sleep the first couple weeks anyways! :)

  14. I have had 1 hospital birth and 1 home birth and determined I’d never turn back to hospitals. With my first I had researched birth a good amount and knew I wanted an intervention free natural birth, but chose a hospital (in hindsight, I wish I had done more research, but my first birth experience helped shape my decisions later). I had an extensive birth plan and was determined not to let anyone push me around. After 35 hours of natural labor and being stuck at 7 cm for 12 hours (posterior arrest. the doctors/nurses didn’t know what this was, nor did I, so I didn’t know how to handle it) they started forcing interventions on me. They manipulated me into water breaking and pitocin. I was exhausted and gave in. After over an hour with the pit and no epi I cried a lot and they labeled me “hysterical” and not competent to make decisions, so they forced an epidural on me. I rested and when it came time to push they promised to turn off the epi so I could squat to push. Well they didn’t turn off the pit and after the epi wore off I cried a lot again…they turned my epi back on without asking me. After 4 hours of pushing they lied to me and said I had to have a c-section. I asked them to try other things and insisted it was because I was on my back (native american women have different pelvic structures and physically cannot give birth on our backs) but they didn’t listen. They decided I was incompetent and manipulated my husband into signing a consent form. I was taken to c-section and I FELT it. Not pressure, FULL PAIN. I screamed and they lied to me and told me they had given me all the meds the could and they would just have to “do it really fast”!!!!! I screamed the whole time and forgot to breathe several times. My son was born to me screaming and whisked away onto some table to be poked and prodded instead of placed on my bare chest.
    I researched the heck out of birth after that and hired an amazing, skilled, experienced midwife with a lot of VBAC experience for my 2nd. I had a very complicated pregnancy and almost lost my daughter several times, but my midwife helped save her life by doing things the doctors would not have checked for. I had an AMAZING labor with her in the water, eating, drinking water and juice, etc. 12 hrs into labor I felt the urge to push. After a little while we discovered a cervical lip. My midwife eventually had to hold it back with her hand to get my daughter past it. OW. After a long time of pushing we discovered she was a brow presentation. My midwife did a maneuver where she put both hands up there and tucked my daughters chin into her chest (doctors would have said c-section at that point). She moved down a little, but went back to brow. My midwife almost transferred me but she kept seeing progress so she prayerfully decided not to transfer. After 6.5 hrs of pushing, and me switching positions every 2-3 pushes (I would progress, then stop, switch positions, progress then stop, switch positions, etc), my midwife had to do the 2 handed maneuver again to get my daughter out of being a brow presentation again. I shot her to crowning in 1 push, but my perineum was so swollen by this point I begged for an episiotomy because I NEEDED it to end right then. After a while, she gave me one and I birthed my daughter, my husband caught her and she was placed onto my bare chest and we took an amazing herb bath together, etc etc. She had some non-life threatening facial deformities that made nursing hard, but she was fine.

    I am now terrified of birth and I am very very conflicted on what to do with my next baby. I hate hospitals and I am terrified of going to one for birth, but I am afraid of bad things happening at a home birth. My midwife moved away and I don’t know how to trust anyone else…with my history and my midwife doing all that she had done, I am scared of finding any one else. All the birth centers where I live closed down. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to trust. I don’t know how to feel…I am scared all around. I don’t know if I should trust my fear of hospitals or my fear of home birth (and birth center isn’t an option). Being a VBAC again makes it a harder decision. I pray and pray and pray on this all the time but everything is all jumbled and I don’t know what to do. I want another home birth, but recently I have heard a lot of negative stories and have been discouraged.

    • Oh, Kelly, my heart hurts to read your story! It sounds like you had a very traumatic experience. I just said a prayer for you to have some direction for the next time around. You have done this twice already–you can do it again…and I hear each time is better. I know my second my better than my first. God will make a way!

  15. I was planning from the start on a birthing center birth, with my hopes up high, did the orientation, got started with the midwives there and it just didn’t work out. I had a gut feeling (or spirit check) that drove me away, and circumstances pushed me toward going with a hospital that offers midwifery. I’ve been back and forth emotionally, though I have peace from knowing that God is in charge, it’s been difficult for me to accept that the hospital birth isn’t going to necessarily make it easy for me to do it all-natural. And many important people (female relatives, mostly) have not been encouraging me in my decision to do it naturally. But my husband is a strong advocate and I know I can count on him in whatever situation arises, and I trust the midwife I have now.

    All this to say, I am so encouraged by your story about natural, positive hospital birth and so grateful for this post. Thanks for sharing this! I’m bookmarking this one!

    • Be encouraged that you can have a positive hospital experience! If you are able, I encourage you to seek out a doula. My doula made all the difference during my natural labor. Actually, the first time around my hubby and I thought it would be nice to just be the two of us, but we were clueless and not prepared for a natural labor. For my natural labor, I had a support team made up of my hubby, my doula, a massage therapist friend and my midwife! (Oh, and the nurse, but she pretty much stepped back!) I personally really needed all the extra support. I also labored at home as long as I could, and my doula helped me determine when was a good time to go to the hospital. (KEY: DON”T go as soon as your water breaks or first contraction hits! I went as soon as my water broke the first time…and that was a big, big mistake!) I’m so glad you have a midwife! That will really help!

      I was disappointed that my insurance won’t cover our new birthing center, but I also had a spirit check the past few weeks–and the Lord has confirmed that I am birthing exactly where I need to be birthing this time around.

      Congrats to you!

  16. I also had a natural birth in a hospital setting – http://ashleighlankford.blogspot.com/2011/03/birth-story.html

  17. I enjoyed our hospital births, and loved being able to eat Subway pizza’s just about every meal while we waited. But my role was a lot easier than hers. Interesting to hear the other options, thanks for sharing!! :)

  18. I am due in May with my first baby. This information is so helpful and valuable to not just me but many other women so thank you. Personally, I have certain “fears” and “uncertainties” about childbirth in general and therefore a more natural type birth (at least for this first baby) would not be a smart decision on my part. My husband and I feel 100% peaceful about our decision to have our baby in a hospital w/ pain management options available. I am not ashamed of our decision and feel Gods presence in it as well. I fully support women who choose a different path, as I have had many close friends who prefer using a birthing center. That is the neat thing about this life… we all have different options and choices to make and we can come together and learn from each other!

    • Congrats on your pregnancy! Your baby will be here before you know it! I can understand your fears. I was open to pain management both times, but I prepared for an unmedicated birth (knowing that the option was there if I absolutely needed it) the second time around. It really helped to know non-medicated techniques to ease the pain. God has planned your baby’s story!

  19. Great comparison! You can add my birth center story to the list–we had a great experience!
    http://yourmorningcup.blogspot.com/2011/08/tatums-birth-story.html

  20. I have had two hospital births. With my first, we knew she had a heart defect, so they insisted on monitoring her very closely. My water broke at home and the doctor was impatient, so when I was only dilated to 4 eight hours after my water broke he insisted on pitocin, and I agreed and asked for an epidural first. My epidural allowed me to relax and I slept for about an hour and a half, then woke up and was ready to push within an hour. It was really a godsend, I was such a wreck about knowing my daughter would be whisked to the NICU and that open heart surgery was imminent, that I don’t think I could have relaxed enough to do well with an unmedicated birth.

    With my second, I really wanted a home waterbirth once ultrasounds showed that he appeared healthy, but my husband was very against it and it was his child too, so I had to respect his wishes. I put a lot of thought into creating my birth plan and had several copies ready to go when I went into labor. (I also recommend the Ina May book, Henci Goer’s book, and Birthing From Within). I was committed to an unmedicated birth because I felt it was better for the baby and would ward off the cascade of interventions. I also knew that my baby was going to be big and knew that I would need to be able to move and feel what I was doing if I hoped to prevent him from getting stuck. When I arrived at the hospital, the nurses were angels and were so excited to be part of an unmedicated birth. I got in the tub and labored there, progressing to 7 cm within an hour of arriving at the hospital. I got out of the tub and used a birthing ball, and the rocking chair, as well as leaning on the bed. Finally my water broke and I pushed for about half an hour. The nurses helped me curve my pelvis so that the baby’s shoulders wouldn’t get stuck. My son was 9 lb 13 oz when he was born, and had a 15″ head. The birth was a wonderful, empowering experience. I am proof that you CAN have a natural unmedicated childbirth in a hospital successfully!

  21. Love that first photo! It reminds me of that peace you feel right after giving birth, no matter how exhausted you are and how much pain you’re in. :) Wonderful, thorough post!!

  22. Erin! This is a fabulous post! I just had to share it on my facebook page for my clients and friends! Very educational for those who don’t know all their options and love the resources that you listed!

  23. Love the article! I had an emergency c-section after 27 hours of labor in the hospital with my first pregnancy- it was a nightmare. I was doing great and then they decided to give me pitocin to speed me along. After that it was blur of pain and “interventions”. I wasn’t even conscious when my daughter was pulled out so I missed her first cries and didn’t see her till she was almost six hours old. I had a young female doctor who I had been very clear with about what I wanted so I was shocked at how everything went. My second pregnancy there was only one practice in the area who would let me try for a VBAC so by default I ended up with an older male doctor. I thought it would be horribly awkward and uncomfortable. I had a high-risk pregnancy, was supposed to be on bed-rest from my third month on, and complications that required me being induced. However, my doctor ended up being a God-send. First off, he didn’t use pitocin. He let me labor and birth in the birthing center (attached to the hospital) instead of the maternity ward, I was allowed to roam around my (large) room, eat and drink, sit in the rocking chair, and on the ball in a hot shower, and turn off the lights. I had only periodic external monitoring even after my epidural. And after awhile he eased off the epidural so that I could feel to push which I did sitting up pushing off of my husband and sister with my feet and the bed with my arms (my choice- it was the most comfortable position I and my giant belly could get into). I ended up laboring just over 16 hours in comfort and security, pushing only an hour. My son was born extremely ill so the birthing center rushed him over to the NICU, but that ended well- we all went home six days later- oh yeah… the birthing center let my husband and I stay on there while our son was in the NICU. Illness aside, it was a wonderful experience. I think my fear would keep me from laboring successfully at home or in a hospital. If we have more children I will be choosing a birthing center again.

  24. We had four hospital births. All four pregnancies were smooth and low risk. I was induced all four times and had an epidural for three. This was all mostly because I was very uneducated about all my options. This fifth (and final) baby will be born at home. And I am absolutely looking forward to it :) This is a great post, by the way! I wish I had known all this before my first was ever born!

  25. I have had seven babies at home, with the last two being water births. We love the setting and the natural approach. We are firm believers that a woman’s body was designed to give birth and it is only the exception that she needs intervention. We are grateful for modern technology, as my very dear friend found that she had placenta previa shortly before baby was due. She and the baby could have died without a c-section. My friend has had 10 home births and only the one hospital birth.

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  1. [...] you are debating a homebirth this article has great unbiased information on homebirth, hospital birth, and birthing center births.  Posted by sistersplayinghouse at 1:00 [...]

  2. [...] you are debating a homebirth this article has great unbiased information on homebirth, hospital birth, and birthing center births.  Posted by sistersplayinghouse at 10:35 [...]

  3. [...] Comparison of Birthing Settings: Home, Hospital, and Birthing Centers [...]

  4. [...] recently read a thoughtful, thorough article comparing the different options of birth settings available to mothers: home, birthing center, and [...]