How Safe is a Birth Center Delivery?

Giving birth at a birth center is just as safe as giving birth in a hospital. Women who give birth in a birth center are also less likely to have unnecessary interventions like cesarean sections, forceps, or vacuum deliveries, which pose additional risks to both mothers and babies. 

According to the American Association of Birth Centers, women who are expecting twins, have a breech baby (a baby that comes bottom-first instead of head-first), have medical complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes, or have had a previous cesarean section should be advised to give birth in a hospital. On the other hand, women with uncomplicated pregnancies should have the option of giving birth in a birth center with the necessary services nearby.

No birth in a hospital, birth center, or home is risk-free. Still, better access to higher-quality care and integration of the healthcare system can increase safety for mothers and their newborns during childbirth. Even though most women in the United States give birth in hospitals, a significant body of research suggests that, for low-risk women, planned home births or births in independent birth centers have outcomes that are at least as good as those of hospital birth. 

Out-of-hospital deliveries frequently allow for mother-friendly and safe care for mothers and babies. For low-risk mothers and babies, studies from around the world suggest that deliveries at home and in birth centers may be just as safe as hospital births if they take place within an integrated and regulated system, are covered by insurance, have a variety of provider options, are handled by qualified professionals who are trained to manage complications, are seamlessly transferred to another birth location, and are risk assessed regularly throughout the entire pregnancy.

What are the downsides of having a baby at a birth center?

    • Absence of centers: Particularly if you reside in a small town, the country’s birth centers are few (and their services may be in high demand).

    • Possible hospital transfer: You may be taken to a hospital if there is a problem or an emergency. On the other hand, Birthing centers have IVs, oxygen, and infant resuscitation machines for use during the transfer process. Fortunately, less than 2% of transfers are caused by emergencies (primarily due to moms having backbreaking labor and requests for an epidural).

    • It might not be covered by your insurance. Some insurance providers refuse to pay for deliveries at birth facilities. To talk about your coverage, get in touch with your insurance company.

    • Not everyone should use them. Multiple births or high-risk pregnancies cannot be accommodated in birth centers.
      • Most birth centers won’t accept women who have previously had a C-section due to the increased risk that the uterine wall could rupture on the cesarean scar, a rare but severe emergency requiring quick access to an operating room.
      • Birth centers are not equipped to handle challenging births, so epidural anesthesia cannot be used there.
      • Birth facilities offer pain-management options besides epidurals, including warm baths, massages, and assistance from a midwife. The emphasis is on supporting women who prefer an unmedicated birth, even though some facilities offer nitrous oxide or IV pain medications.
      • A growing number of women choose to give birth at home or in birthing centers, even though nearly 98.4% of American women give birth in hospitals. Black and Native American women have the highest rates of maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
      • The study found that sexism and racism are the main reasons maternity care outcomes are subpar.

        • Women of color, predominantly Black and Native American women, experience a variety of risk factors for pregnancy and childbirth, such as intergenerational trauma, marginalization, intolerance, and economic disadvantage.

Only low-risk pregnancies are handled at birthing centers. Suppose you have a high-risk pregnancy, such as hypertension, diabetes, or gestational diabetes. If your baby is breech, you’re pregnant with multiples, or you have other issues that could lead to complications, a birth center isn’t the best option for you. 

When women are adequately screened as low-risk and are cared for by experienced midwives, most births can occur without incident outside of a hospital. However, giving birth can also become terrifying for both mother and baby. If complications arise in a birth center, you are further away from the available medical resources that a hospital can provide. 

Read Related blog post: What is a FreeStanding Birth Center

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