Considering a hospital birth
Many women give birth in a hospital, birthing center, or at home. The advantages of a hospital birth include pain control, access to a NICU, staff support, and availability of interventions. Disadvantages include stress, fewer birthing positions, fewer support people, and you may not be able to choose your delivery doctor.
Creating a birth plan may not cross your mind until after you get pregnant. Many women give birth in a hospital, but other options are birthing centers and home births. Learn about hospital delivery tips, including the advantages and disadvantages of delivering your baby in a hospital.
As you decide whether to give birth in a hospital, you should consider hospital delivery pros and cons. You can talk to your doctor or set up an appointment with the labor and delivery department at your hospital to learn more. Things to consider include:
Alternative birthing options?
As you decide where to give birth, it’s important to understand all of your options. This helps you better understand the advantages and disadvantages of a hospital delivery.
Sometimes called birthing suites, these may be on-site at your hospital or in a separate building. There are usually fewer interventions available, and they offer a homier feel. Delivering your baby in a birthing center or suite may allow you to go home sooner than if you were in a hospital.
You may need to enlist the help of a midwife or other medical professional aside from your regular doctor. Most doctors deliver babies in hospitals, while midwives and doulas offer support for home births. Consider where you can give birth that is easy to clean up, and create a plan for if you do need to go to the hospital in the case of an emergency.
Advantages of a hospital delivery
Giving birth in a hospital means that you have access to many types of pain prevention methods. You can try an IV medication, and if that doesn’t work, you can get an epidural. Birthing centers and home births don’t offer these same options. At a hospital, you can always forego these options, but it may provide you peace of mind to know they’re available.
You never know how your delivery will go until it happens. If your baby is in distress or the doctors identify health concerns, you are already down the hall from the NICU if you give birth in a hospital. At a birthing center or home birth, your baby may need to be transferred immediately, with you following once you’re physically able.
At the hospital, you have a dedicated nursing team to help you through labor and delivery. You may have a single nurse or a team of nurses, depending on how many other babies are being born at the same time. They deliver babies every day and are knowledgeable about the birthing process.
If your baby is stuck in the birth canal or you face other issues, the hospital team is ready to take steps to deliver your baby. This may include completing a C-section if your labor goes on too long.
Birthing centers and home births don’t offer the same interventions. If your labor goes too long at another location without a successful birth, you may need to go to the hospital anyway. Early intervention at a hospital may prevent the need for a C-section.
Disadvantages of a hospital birth
It can be stressful when you’re in a new, unfamiliar place. Hospitals are sterile and designed for easy cleanup, which may not help you feel comfortable. Plus, hospitals have certain ways of doing things, and their expectations may not align with your birth plan. You may have to sacrifice birth preferences if they aren’t available at your hospital.
Fewer birthing positions
Midwives and doulas are trained in delivering babies from multiple positions. Hospitals may limit you to giving birth in one or two positions. For example, you may be able to give birth lying on your back but not standing on your hands and knees. If you would prefer a water birth or want to use a birthing ball, those resources may not be available at the time of your delivery.
Hospitals typically limit the number of people that can be in a room during your baby’s birth. If you want more than one or two people in the room, you may have to choose between family members. A birthing center may not impose the same limitations on visitors. If you give birth at home, you can have as many people present as you like.
You see the same doctor throughout your pregnancy, but will they be available for your delivery time? Doctors rotate being on-call to respond to after-hours deliveries, so your doctor may not deliver your baby. If you work with a midwife or doula, they usually plan to clear their schedule around your due date for around-the-clock availability.
Medically Reviewed on 9/1/2021
Harvard Medical School: “Where is best for birth: Hospital or home?”
Journal of the American Family Physician: “Having a Baby Outside of a Hospital: What You Need to Know.”
Utah Department of Health: “Choosing Where to Deliver Your Baby.”