If a hospital is someplace that you find uncomfortable or intimidating, and if a home birth is not an option for you, another birthing option could be a birth center. A birthing center is a health care facility that looks after a woman throughout her pregnancy, and will also take care of the child birth but in a homier atmosphere.
Typically a birthing center is staffed not only by doctors, obstetricians and nurses, but also by midwives, doulas and coaches. These are relaxed and more personal spaces than a typical hospital, but also they may lack the technical support and so if a birth gets complicated one may have to shift to a hospital.
The benefits of a birthing center
The birthing center looks after a woman and monitors her throughout the pregnancy and it is possible for a woman to become acquainted and comfortable with the healthcare workers there, making for a better experience with labor and birth.
The more homey and relaxed atmosphere is deliberately kept non-hospital like with regular beds rather than hospital beds where mother and father may both fit.
Also a woman is freer to have friends and family around, have her own music or have a water birth or an active birth if she so desires. They can try out different postures; squatting, waking and so on.
A woman needs to stay for a shorter time at a birthing center when compared with a hospital and may be free to leave as little as 6 hours after birth. Bathtubs or showers are available for women who choose to have a water birth and women can use birthing balls.
The infant can room with the mother after birth and there are beds available if other family members choose to stay on with the mother.
The limitations of a birthing center
Only women with low risk pregnancies can use the facilities of a birthing center. For complicated pregnancies where there is a higher likelihood of needing hospital assistance, birthing centers are inappropriate.
Even in low risk pregnancies, if there is a complication later, the mother will have to be shifted to a hospital.
Certain conditions preclude a woman the use of a birthing center. She cannot opt for it is she has had a previous C section, if she is obese, or has conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, seizure disorders and other chronic conditions. If the baby has not settled down into the delivery canal headfirst or if a woman has multiples she cannot opt for a birthing center birth.