Home Birth Vs. Birth Center

Updated on February 23, 2009
M.D. asks from Ellicott City, MD
8 answers

Hello all,
I am looking for the experiences of women who have had a home birth or one in a birthing center that was NOT part of a hospital. What were your experiences? We are leaning towards a natural birth (drug free - no epidural no pitocin, no interventions unless ABSOLUTELY MEDICALLY NECESSARY) and IF I am a good candidate, I am thinking about a home birth. My Certified Nurse Midwife has a lot of experience and can give an epidural if necessary. However, I was also thinking about a birthing center, but the closest ones I am interested in are Bay Area Midwifery Center and Special beginnings and they are 30 miles from my house.

Any one have any experience with either of these options?


1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thank you for all of your responses. I still have some questions for my midwife. I will definitely NOT do this without my midwife - that would be just too dangerous.

More Answers



answers from Washington DC on

I gave birth to my son last year at BirthCare Birthing center in Alexandria, VA - and I live in Baltimore! It was a great experience, and if you are at any birthing center the midwives there will definately be well prepared to take care of any upexpected difficulties that could arise, and you will be required to have a back up doctor. That is standard practice, even if you home birth with them. In fact, I chose to give birth at the birthing center for the very reason that I felt and thought (and I did a lot of research on this) it was SAFER than being in a hospital. The midwives whole career is helping women give birth naturally, they are well experienced, caring, well prepared even if emergencies arise and they are very skilled at ensuring the best outcomes for mom and baby!!
My experience was great, and drug-free, and I have very positive memories of my son's birth - even though the 45 minute drive to the center kinda stunk, it was not all that bad. Labor was hard work, and while the only pain I felt during contractions was in my tailbone, it was very intense from the onset of my labor (12 hours + 3 hrs in transition (God forbid!) and 45 minutes pushing). I truly adored the attentive care I received and I believe the relaxed environment and the quality care and knowledge of the midwife attending me and my birthing assistant helped me have a great birth. Besides, the whirlpool tub was a big plus (my son was 7 minutes from being born in it!) and it was nice to be able to eat and drink freely. The other plus to a birthing center is that you can birth your child freely and in any position you feel is right for you. The ability to give birth in any position is also a big factor in preventing un-necessary interventions and their consequent problems (i.e. forceps, vaccuum, etc.) Midwives are also familiar and supportive of natural birth, so you will not risk feeling like a pariah in their care - you'll get their support instead of their consternation as I have heard from many friends experiences in a variety of hospitals when they tried to have a drug-free, natural birth - the labor nurses just treated them like they were crazy.

Also, I have never heard of a CNM being able to give an epidural - even ob/gyns don't do that as it is the role of an anesthsiologist. Double check that, it doesn't jive for me.

I hope this helps, and I hope you are able to find a solution that works for you to have a great birth where you can truly feel SAFE and comfortable. If you have to drive a ways, it really is not that big of a deal - especially when you are mentally prepared for it. (with that, I must admit I still dreaded the drive down! But it was fine in the end!)

Take care, and best of luck with your pregnancy, birth and new baby!



answers from Washington DC on

I delivered my second daughter at Bay Area Midwifery and it was WONDERFUL!!! I would recommend them whole-heartedly! I love the midwives (kind and funny and warm and friendly) and they were always available by phone to answer questions and take care of any issues (I called at about 23 weeks, worried that I might have a UTI, and they were able to set me up with a lab test and a prescription for antibiotics (which I didn't need, thank goodness, the lab test came back negative) over the phone -- all at at local places to close to my home, and I didn't have to drive out there for any of that)

They were about 35 minutes from our home, and I was a little worried about the drive, but it was not a problem at all. They were so nice and helpful during labor, I had freedom to walk and move and soak in the tub, and my husband was right with me, holding me, on the bed as the baby came. (we did the whole thing naturally, too). The best part was after the birth -- I got to hold the baby and nurse for as long as I wished -- no one felt the need to take the baby away or prod her or poke her or anything. In fact, they took the baby's temperature and listened to her heart and all sorts of other things while I was holding her! They didn't even weigh her until an hour or two after the birth, and they did that right on the bed with me. You have the whole birthing suite to yourself after the birth -- it's so homey and wonderful. And when you leave, you go home to your own house and your own bed and it's so comfortable. My first daughter was born in the hospital, and I got to hold her for about 2 minutes before they took her to do measuring and weighing and shots and eye drops, and then I got to hold her for only 30 minutes before they said she had to go to the nursery and I had to go to the maternal recovery ward, and it was 6 HOURS before they brought her to me, and they had given her two bottles of formula without asking me or even notifying me first. I had been calling and calling the nursery, crying, "can I have my baby?" and they kept saying, "we're still doing {x, y, z, who knows?] soon, soon..." I was so traumatized by that. For the next day and a half in the hospital, it was impossible to sleep because people kept coming in the room to clean or check on me or check on the baby or whatever... we never got time to just sleep (and it's hard to sleep with a baby in a cot-like hospital bed).

I also have friends who delivered at Special Beginnings in Annapolis, and they loved their experience there, too. I will NEVER deliver in a hospital again -- the birth center is the most wonderful, beautiful, natural experience!

Lots of people told me -- "oh my goodness, I can't believe they'd send you home just 4 or 5 hours after the birth!!" but they *never* ask you to leave if you're not ready. My midwives were saying we could stay as long as we wanted, but after 3 and a half hours after the birth, we were ready to go home... we felt relaxed and happy, and I had no trouble walking... everything was wonderful.



answers from Seattle on

Hi M.,

Congratulations! I don't have personal experience with non-hospital births but I wanted to make sure you have a very good back-up plan just in case. My mom had my brother at our home when I was little & we lived out in the country, about 1/2hr from any hospital, with a chiropracter delivering him. Fortunately, all went fine, but if anything had gone wrong, it could've been very bad. After my son was born (at a hospital), it was discovered that he had a serious congenital heart defect, which was previously undiagnosed despite all the usual ultrasounds & prenatal work-up (we had no risk factors or anything). The radiologist even guaranteed me that our baby was perfectly normal/healthy (I made him double-check everything because I wanted to be sure & was paranoid for some reason--maybe it was mother's intuition?). Had he been born elsewhere without expert neonatologists there to provide the necessary oxygen, tests, & care, he might not have survived as he needed to have surgery right away to save his life. I don't want to scare you from having the birthing experience you want, but just think about having a hospital close by with a physician as a back-up. I wouldn't think pain control should be a problem but I'd worry about any complications either from the delivery or with the baby that you don't know about before. At the least, have supplemental oxygen on hand because every second counts when it comes to hypoxia. Again, I do not want to worry you unnecessarily, but I'm glad that I did not listen to my mom & pursue a home birth like she did, so I thought I should pass this on to you in case you hadn't thought about it. Just discuss back-up plans with your midwife in case it's more than you both can handle at home or the birthing center. That said, I know several women who've had perfectly routine deliveries at home & at birthing centers & are happy with their decisions.




answers from Washington DC on

Dear M.,
I totally believe that everyone should at least try to have a completely natural childbirth. I delivered both of my boys with no drugs at all. I did feel pressure, but little pain. It is natural for a woman to give birth and breast feed, but eventhough both my pregnancies were healthy and normal and my experience with my first child was perfect. My second child inhaled merconium. Just in case you do not know that is the first bowl movement and inhaling it can cause loss of oxygen to the brain and pneumonia. Being in the hospital gave me the oppurtunity to DO IT MY MAY. Which meant using no drugs, but giving my child the after care that they needed. My second child who is now 3 and healthy had to stay in the NICU for 1 week. The NICU doctors told me that if I had not been in the the hospital he could have suffered mild brain damage and would have had to be rushed to the hospital. DO IT YOUR WAY, but also think about delivering your child in the safest and most equiped place.

GOOD LUCK, children at such a blessing!



answers from Washington DC on

Funny you should ask! I have a friend who had her second baby at home in the bathtub last May, yes, on purpose! With only her husband there to play catch! On purpose! She was set up with a birthing center in Annapolis, and was supposed to call them when things got started, but as her mother and her mother's best friend are both nurses and she has eight younger siblings who were born at home, she was pretty confident about knowing what was normal and what wasn't, and staying home. (And, the birthing center is 45 min away, eek.)

So I sent your query to her. She'll probably send a reply with in a day or so, I'll pass it on when she does.

Good luck whatever you decide. I, for one, would have a nurse or midwife there.




answers from Washington DC on


I would highly recommend joining NAP (Natural Approach Parenting- takeanap.org)we have a wonderful group in Howard Co that has a lot of experience with all types of birth. I had my first in a birth center & found it much better than the hospital. I had been told I could have a "birth center experience" there and maybe I could have under other circumstances. They are opening a bc in Balt. When are you due? I've heard good things about special beginings. If you go with the hospital make sure your husband is willing to stand up for what you want, bring snacks, & have a birth plan. Happy birthing!




answers from Washington DC on

Hi M.-

I was debating a similar choice regarding the birth of my first child, born 7 weeks ago. I didn't want any medical interventions and was hesitant to have the baby in the hospital, fearing it would make such interventions too easy to happen against my will. The woman who taught our childbirth class strongly encouraged me to drive the 40 miles to the birthing center in Annapolis, which I didn't want to do. I worried about bad weather or bad traffic. I wasn't willing to do a home birth, though, so I delivered at Mercy hospital in Baltimore with a midwife. My 10.5-pound son was born completely naturally and nobody pressured me for any interventions.

I know you don't want to deliver at a hospital, so my two pieces of advice are:
1) The 10-minute car ride to the hospital while I was in labor really sucked. Driving all the way to the birth center would have been horrible. Given that I was at 8.5 cm by the time I was admitted to the hospital, I would almost have been pushing the baby out in the car had we driven all the way to Annapolis.
2) For my fast and easy labor, even with a really big baby, a home birth would have been fine. I had a third degree tear (the price of having a big baby) that required stitches, but the midwife could have dealt without my being in a hospital.




answers from Washington DC on

My first son was born in a birth center and it was beautiful! After seeing my friends' hospital birth experiences, they didn't compare. I can't imagine giving birth in a hospital unless there was a real medical reason to do it. I'm planning a home birth in 3 weeks for my next son. Birth center is just too long of a drive, and I realized that my first birth was just like delivering in someone else's home - why not do it in my own home? No horrible drive in a seatbelt while you're contracting, and all the comforts of home while you're feeling awful. Home birth seemed too extreme when I was expecting my first, but now that I've had a drug-free birth, and I know I can do it, home just seems more comfortable. People always say "what if something terrible happens?" Statistics for home or birth center birth prove that you are LESS likely to have something bad happen than in a hospital. Part of that is the lack of unnecessary "interventions" that are so common place in a hospital. Part is due to midwives prescreening patients carefully. Midwives are struggling to keep their practices open - they will NOT allow you to have a non-hospital birth if they think there's any chance of something going wrong. And during the birth, they will transfer you to the hospital long before things get dire - they can't AFFORD to have something go wrong. They don't have hospital lawyers protecting them, and one bad thing happening during a birth can make them lose their liability insurance...they just won't risk it.

That being said, it is going to hurt! If I had had access to drugs, I would have taken them! But I didn't have the choice; I made it through, and I was so proud of myself! Trust your instincts, do your research, and then stick to your guns no matter what the naysayers think!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches