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Choosing The Right Birth Environment: Hospital Birth, Home Birth, or Freestanding Birth Center?

When it comes to having a baby, there are a lot of decisions to make. One of the most important decisions is choosing where to have your baby. Should you have a home birth, birth center, or a hospital birth?

There are pros and cons to each. Home births are more intimate and relaxed, but there is less medical intervention if things go wrong. Hospital births are more medicalized, but you have access to more resources if you need them.

The decision of where to have your baby is a personal one. In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of both home births and hospital births so that you can make an informed decision about what is right for you.

How to decide where to give birth! Fort Collins, CO Doula
Home, Hospital, Birth Center Birth. Doula Fort Collins, CO

Why is it important to choose the right birth environment?

It is essential to choose the right birth environment for you and your baby. Not only will the environment affect your birth experience, but it also will have an impact on the outcome of the birth.

Your birth environment can influence the kind of medical interventions you receive, the amount of control you have over the birth process, and the overall mood and atmosphere of the birth. It can also affect the psychological and emotional health of both you and your baby as well as the physiological health of your baby.

home birth doula Fort Collins, CO
Fort Collins, CO Doula Home birth

What are my options on where to give birth?

When you think about where you want to give birth, do you know what your options are? We are often inundated with cultural norms through television, social media, books, family and friends, on where to give birth. Usually, that place is the hospital. If you are a low risk pregnancy, you do have other options besides birthing in the hospital, these include giving birth at home with a midwife or at a freestanding birth center.

What's the difference between these options?

Let’s look a little more closely at each location, the benefits of each and possible risks associated with where you want to give birth.

Hospital Birth

A traditional hospital birth refers to the process of giving birth in a hospital setting, where medical professionals are available to provide care and support throughout labor and delivery. Your care provider may be a medical doctor or a certified nurse midwife. The environment may be clinical and sterile, with an abundance of medical equipment present. There may be routine interventions and procedures that are followed, regardless of whether or not you are a low risk pregnancy, such as IV access or withholding food and fluids during labor. Other risks include, increased obstetrical interventions, increased risk of unplanned cesarean section, increased risk of labor augmentation and induction (OHSU News, 2015).

What are the benefits of a hospital birth?

There are benefits to choosing a hospital birth, such as hospitals do come equipped with modern medical technologies and support staff that can help in the event of an emergency. This means that in the event that a medical emergency does occur during labor and delivery, the medical team will be ready and able to take action quickly.

In most cases, labor and delivery are uneventful and proceed without issue, however, it can be comforting to know that if the need were to arise, the medical team would be on hand to assist.

Lastly, doctors can monitor the baby more easily during labor and delivery in a hospital setting, so that any potential issues can be detected and checked sooner. This can be especially beneficial in cases of complicated pregnancies.

Birth Doula Fort Collins, CO
Birth Support Fort Collins, CO

Home Birth

Nonetheless, on the opposite end of the spectrum is giving birth at home. Choosing a planned home birth is a personal decision that should be made after consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Home births can be safe for low-risk pregnancies and can offer a more intimate and comfortable experience.

What are the benefits of a homebirth?

Home Births offer several benefits to both mother and baby. For one, they provide a natural, comfortable setting where the mother can give birth with minimal medical interventions. Home births also promote an intimate bond between mother and baby. For mothers, they provide the opportunity to give birth on their own terms in an environment of their choosing that is free from external stressors.

Additionally, birthing at home also has the potential to reduce the risk of infections due to the environments being much more sanitary than a hospital. The use of pain medications can be avoided or minimized in a homebirth setting, along with the use of tools such as fetal monitors and forceps. Research has also found that mothers who give birth at home are more likely to experience a shorter labor compared to those who give birth at a hospital.

However, it is important to have a plan in place for emergency situations and to make sure that the healthcare provider attending the birth is experienced in home births. The greatest worry most people have with a home birth is “what if there is an emergency?”.

When I was researching homebirth, I remember reading, (forgive me I can not remember who quoted this statement) that before there is an emergency there is a situation, and before there is a situation there are signs or variations of normal that alert the midwife to monitor more closely. As the midwife keeps watch there may be changes in the situation and the midwife will transfer the birthing person to the hospital before there is an emergency.

Lavery et al. (1999) states, “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest a time guideline of 30 minutes from decision for Cesarean delivery to the beginning (incision) of the procedure.”

As you can see, an emergency has a precursor to it, there are signs that providers look for, so as to make a judgment call on when interventions or surgery may be required.

Home birth doula, Fort Collins, CO
Home birth doula, Fort Collins, CO

Photo by Rebekah Vos on Unsplash

Freestanding Birth Center

So now that we have covered hospital and homebirth, let’s look at birthing at a freestanding birth center. This is different from a birth center that is attached or inside a hospital. A freestanding birth center is just that, a center that is not attached to a hospital. When it comes to giving birth at a birth center it is an option for women who want a more natural and home-like setting for their childbirth experience, but do not want to give birth at home. Birth centers are typically staffed by midwives and provide amenities like birthing tubs, comfortable furniture, and a relaxed atmosphere. However, it's important to note that birth centers may not have the same medical resources as a hospital, and women with high-risk pregnancies may not be candidates for a birth center birth.

How to make the decision: hospital birth, home birth, or birth center?

Making the decision to choose either a homebirth, hospital birth, or birth center can be a difficult one. You should consider the pros and cons of each option and decide which environment is the best fit for you.

When making the decision, it is important to consider factors like the medical care available, the experiences of other parents, and the comfort and convenience of the environment. Additionally, safety concerns should also be weighed on both sides.

It is also recommended that you do your research ahead of time and talk to your healthcare provider to see if you are a good candidate for a home birth, birth center, or a hospital birth. Your provider can help weigh the options and provide you with the necessary information to make an informed decision.

Birth doula, Fort Collins, CO
Hospital birth doula, Fort Collins, CO

Wrap it all up!

Once you’ve decided on either a home birth, birth center, or a hospital birth, the next step is to adequately prepare for the birth you have chosen.

For those parents who choose to birth at home, adequate preparation involves the following:

  • Setting up the birthing space.

  • Gather supplies that will be needed (e.g., towels, water/birthing tub, sterile gloves, etc.)

  • Depending on the state, make sure that the midwife or healthcare provider is licensed and approved to practice.

  • Look into getting insurance coverage, if available.

  • Acquire a birth attendant or doula and go over a birth plan.

For those parents who choose to have a hospital or freestanding birth, their preparation involves:

  • Finding an obstetrician or midwife.

  • Check with their insurance provider to make sure that they will cover the cost.

  • Do research on topics regarding hospital/birth center birth policies, such as visitation policies for family.

  • Acquire a birth attendant or doula and discuss a birth plan.

  • Ask the hospital/birth center or healthcare provider about any childbirth classes, breastfeeding classes, etc. that they may offer.

Once these steps have been taken by the expectant parents, they will have wrapped up the essential preparations for their chosen birth environment and can rest easy and prepare for the arrival of their little one. Leave a comment below on where you plan to birth!


Lavery, J. P., Janssen, J., & Hutchinson, L. (1999). Is the obstetric guideline of 30 minutes from decision to incision for Cesarean delivery clinically significant?. Journal of healthcare risk management : the journal of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, 19(1), 11–20.

OHSU News. (2015, December 30). What are the risks of giving birth inside and outside a hospital setting?. OHSU News.

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