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Is a Freestanding Birth Center Right for You?

Amy Johnson-Grass

President, American Association of Birth Centers

While the majority of babies in the United States are born in hospitals, there is another option for women who wish to birth in a homelike setting but desire many of the resources and safeguards of a hospital: freestanding birth centers.

Freestanding birth centers are designed for healthy, low-risk women, seeking a natural birth experience under the care of midwives. Birth center midwives practice a wellness and holistic approach to pregnancy, birth, and women’s health care that is evidence based.

Advantages of a freestanding birth center

  1. Time-intensive care. In a freestanding birth center, midwives take time to answer your questions and respond to your individual needs, giving you confidence in your ability to give birth.
  2. Avoid a cesarean section. The national c-section rate for freestanding birth centers is 6 percent, compared with 32.7 percent for low-risk women in the hospital.
  3. Water birth. All freestanding birth centers offer water immersion in labor, and most (93 percent) offer water birth.
  4. Personalized, respectful care that balances human touch and technology.
  5. Variety of options for pain management. In a freestanding birth center, you have the freedom to find the positions and comfort measures that offer the most relief, including nitrous.

How to choose a freestanding birth center

  • Check out their online reviews.
  • Verify the birth center and its providers are licensed and that it is accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers (CABC).
  • Ensure you understand the arrangements if you need to be transferred to the hospital. Ask for statistics on how often this happens.
  • Confirm your health insurance will cover you and your baby’s care at a freestanding birth center. 

Choosing where to give birth is a personal one. The environment and care provider you choose can make a significant difference in your birth outcome and how satisfied you are with your experience. If you want highly personalized care from a licensed midwifery professional with fewer routine interventions, then a freestanding birth center may be for you. Learn more and find a freestanding birth center at BirthCenters.org.

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