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“Home birth was actually my first choice, but my husband was really concerned about what people would think. I knew I couldn’t do it unless he was completely onboard, so the birth center seemed like the next best choice.” —Laurie, a corporate planner and mother of two in Dallas, T.X.
“As a new mom, you need to recover and take care of your baby, so if you don’t have close family or friends who will be there [at your home] for you, you’re probably better off delivering in a hospital, where you will have nurses to help you out.” —Gayle, a Chiropractor and mother of two in Los Angeles
Who chooses it: Women who want to deliver naturally with a midwife, without interventions, but don’t want a home birth. The “best of both worlds” option.
What you get: A more relaxed, homelike atmosphere than a hospital, yet closer physically and emotionally to the safety net of a hospital.
What you give up: While an independent (freestanding) birthing center is more “mom-centric” than a hospital, protocols must still be followed. Some centers have M.D.’s on staff as medical directors, but care is generally provided by midwives. Medical interventions such as epidurals are unavailable, and you are sent home a few hours after delivery.
What you need to know: A freestanding center should be accredited by the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC; birthcenters.org). Only the lowest-risk pregnancies are welcome. You will need to meet several strict requirements; if you “risk out” at any point or have prolonged labor, you will be transferred to a nearby hospital.