Are Hospital Births Becoming More Home-Like?

Plus, how you can "homeify" your own hospital birth.

mom with her baby after giving birth

Deciding between a home birth and a hospital birth is no easy decision: while hospitals might be safer for some women, there's no place like home. Fortunately, a few hospitals are finding middle ground and taking a few pages from the home birth manual, which could help provide the best of both worlds.

Take Legacy Health Systems, a group of hospitals in Portland, Oregon. Their birth centers offer cozy, private birthing suites, midwifery care and water births. "By respecting what patients want and offering a full range of low-intervention services (like water birth), we hope our hospitals will appeal to all patients, especially those who might otherwise prefer to deliver at home," says Duncan Neilson, M.D., OB-GYN and Chief of Women's Services at Legacy Health Systems. "We're also working hard to improve our relationship with home-birth providers," says Dr. Neilson. "When midwives are treated with respect, they're willing to transfer patients to hospitals sooner, before it's a huge emergency."

Related: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving Birth at Home

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California also offers home-like benefits: "We encourage less intervention by the way we set up our hospital unit, and we have the lowest primary C-section and highest Vaginal Birth After C-Secion (VBAC) rate in the San Francisco Bay area," says James Byrne M.D., chief of maternal fetal medicine at the hospital. "Our medical equipment is tucked away and only comes out when we need it, like airplane oxygen masks."

As for the east coast: Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, New Hampshire offers ways to have a more natural experience (think: birthing stools, water births and nitrous oxide), and Cambridge Birth Center in Massachusetts provides a home-like, midwife directed, out-of-hospital birth experience that's hospital-adjacent.

If you don't live near one of these hospitals, you can "homeify" your hospital birth by following these tips:

  • Choose a hospital with a low primary C-section rate, a high VBAC rate and policies that accommodate a natural birth

  • Choose a midwife for your prenatal and antenatal care

  • Stay home as long as possible during labor

  • Study up on a range of natural childbirth techniques

Ultimately, these home-like improvements reflect a gradual cultural change (the shift away from high-intervention practices) from which you can benefit, no matter where you intend to deliver. Remember: A lower-intervention, more natural and respectful climate of care is proven to deliver the best results for mothers and babies alike. Talk to your doctor or midwife about how she supports low-intervention deliveries, and be vocal about the home-like options you're interested in.