One of the first choices a woman makes when planning her birth, is where the birth will take place. Expectant couples looking for family-centered, woman-empowered and individualized care will be assessing their options out of the hospital. When considering a community birth setting, or out-of-hospital birth setting, there are 2 options that exist- homebirth and birth center.
Homebirth supports a family in their own familiar environment. Midwives come to your house on your birthing day, bringing with them all the necessary equipment and support to have your baby right in your home.
Freestanding Birth Centers offer a warm and safe environment for families to come and birth their babies. They are stocked with all the supplies, equipment and coping tools to support your natural birth. Some birth centers hire midwives that take call rotation and take turns caring for birthing families, and some centers have an open model where families hire one private midwifery practice to attend them at birth.
(At Babies in Bloom, where we have privileges, the center follows an open model- our clients get continuity from us alone during all of their care.)
Maggie, a mom of 2 who experienced both homebirth and birth center birth offers:
"You have a relationship with your midwives and feel so safe in their hands. I felt my desires and best interests were always a priority. After we had our son (at home), my husband made a comment that we just had our friends over to hang and help us have our baby."
It can be challenging for families to navigate these two options because they both have much to offer. We believe women should plan to birth where they feel most comfortable, and that’s going to be different for everyone. Our goal is to highlight the vast similarities in both, and point out the pros of both settings, as well as sharing some perspectives from moms who have experienced them! Check out our Birth Visualization worksheet to help you navigate what type of birth experience you desire!
Melissa, who had a hospital birth with her first baby and went on to have 3 birth center births comments:
“I wanted more of a voice than the hospital. Where the ones ‘in charge’ trusted the birthing process and taught me along the way. I didn’t have an awful hospital experience, but never felt in control. I never felt like I had options.”
Why both Homebirth and Birth Center Birth are amazing:
Care from the midwives you have grown to know and trust
Alternative pain relief available
Minimal interruptions and free to labor in any position
No restrictions on food, drink, your own clothing or coping tools
Labor AND birth in the water if you choose
Invite as many support people as you desire
No arbitrary time clocks or limits
All the same emergency equipment, medication and supplies in both
Drastic decrease in unnecessary interventions, and reduced risk of c-section
Respectful newborn care, delayed cord clamping and infinite bonding time
Mykael, a mom who had both birth center and homebirth experiences shares:
“I don’t trust hospitals with low risk births. I despise the disrespect I had seen as a doula… My motives were as much about what I did want, as they were about what I did not want.” She adds, “The hands-off approach is a huge factor for me. I only want what is necessary. Just someone to sit on their hands. Homebirth afforded that like no other care model does.”
One of the most surprising things we share when educating families about their options is that BOTH settings carry all the same type of emergency equipment and medications. It is either stocked at the facility for midwives to use during the birth center birth, or your midwife brings it all into your home when your birth time comes. The common thread in any community birth setting is that you are free from the constraints and strict protocols of hospitals. This allows women to receive individualized care and birth on her own terms.
Maggie, a mom who chose a birth center for her first birth says:
“I wanted a homebirth but my husband wasn’t 100% comfortable, so we compromised on a birth center. Hospitals make me so uneasy that I knew if I birthed in one, I wouldn’t be in the head space to have the birth I wanted. I wanted a birth centered around whatever my husband and I wanted and needed versus someone dictating how MY birth was going to go.”
Why we love Birth Center Birth:
Much more home-like than the sterile hospital
Someone else minds all the details to prepare the environment
It’s always clean and organized, unlike a home
Many centers are in very close proximity to a hospital
Melissa shares her experience after having 3 babies at a birth center:
“The best parts of my three births were in the ways I felt supported, yet in control, through the whole experience. The midwives were intuitive, and respectful… I especially loved being able to come home to a clean house shortly after birth to get started with life and our new family.”
Many families just can not shake the expectation that you “go” somewhere to have a baby, especially with their first. That alone is a good enough reason to choose a birth center experience. There’s also a perception that a birth center birth may be safer or a more controlled environment. And while safety statistics are near identical in both center and home, the birth center may be a closer distance to a hospital than someone’s home and that idea can be a comfort. Many families also just simply want to show up and have a baby, not having the added responsibility of preparing their home for birth. We know families who felt the size of their home, or other people they were living with would make it difficult to embrace a homebirth- in which case birth center becomes the perfect solution. Finally, when it’s time to head home with your baby, you get to leave all the labor details behind for the birth center to manage.
Jamie switched from OB care to the birth center in her second trimester with her first baby:
“I always wanted a home birth but was too scared to commit to it for my first baby. I liked Babies In Bloom because they were an in between for me- not a hospital, but not my living room & seemed very confident, something I was lacking for myself at the time. I liked that they were near a hospital in case something didn't go as planned. I liked that they had a nurse on staff. I think I just wanted all the security I could wrap my head & hands around.”
Why we love Homebirth:
No driving to and from a facility, or wondering when to go
The maximum amount of privacy and control
You don’t have to pack anything, your own comforts are at your fingertips
Your family’s story takes place in your own cherished home
We can support Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) at home
Anndrea, a mom of 2 who chose home for her second birth offered:
“When I had my first baby in the hospital they made us stay overnight and through most of the next day which was torture. We just wanted to go home and enjoy our new son. Being at home, we’d be in the comfort of our own home and not on any one else’s schedule. There’d be no pressure on procedures or medications which I really wanted to avoid as well.”
Anyone who has ever agonized about when to leave for a birthing place can tell you there’s a sweet-spot-of-a-goal that is not too early, and definitely not too late- this timing can make or break normal labor progress as well. Homebirth allows for this element of timing to be less of a distraction, you simply call your midwives to come to you. Avoiding a car ride in labor seems to be a highlight of many homebirth experiences as well.
Maggie, who chose a birth center birth for her first baby and homebirth for her second shares:
"We wanted to be at home because we wanted our birth to be on our terms. The biggest difference I felt with homebirth was really feeling in control of everything. It was very much so all in my hands until I requested assistance."
Families find that inviting their birth team into their private home as helpful guests gives them more ownership of their experience. There’s something magical about bringing life into the safe and familiar surroundings of your home, making the family the center of the birth story. All that ever brings you comfort, belonging and joy is at your fingertips to use while coping in labor. We also have the ability to support VBACs, technically HBACs (home birth after cesarean) when our clients choose homebirth.
Jamie, who chose birth center for her first baby, went with a homebirth for her second and explains:
“The best parts of homebirth were EVERYTHING. seriously, everything. My room, my space, my house, my husband, my little boy, my midwives, my doula, my friend, my tub (well it was rented), my bed, my pillows, my blankets, my smells, my lights, my floor, my clothes, my baby, my way. Getting to experience it this way was so unbelievably superior, healing & redemptive. It honestly felt like magic.”
Katie, who had her second baby at home shares:
"Everything about homebirth is amazing! Not having to worry about if we would make it to the hospital on time was paramount! It was beautiful. Meaningful. Unforgettable. Peaceful. And all this with ladies who truly knew me. We so enjoyed not having people constantly waking us to do vitals when we finally got to sleep, or telling us where baby could/could not sleep. One of our favorite things was just to settle in our own bed. My husband has mentioned more times than I can count how thankful he is that we had our daughter at home."
Some additional thoughts:
Although we are licensed midwives by profession, we are not YOUR midwives. All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice. For more information, click here.
We have tons of products and resources in our shop to support new and expecting mamas, take a look!
And make sure you're signed up for our newsletter to stay up to date with your favorite midwives!