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Choosing where to give birth is one of the hardest decisions to make during your pregnancy! If the one-on-one care and more home like environment of a birth center appeal to you, and you have a low risk pregnancy, you will still need to figure out how to choose the right birth center. There are several types of birth centers, and many other factors to take into account. Here's a helping hand.

Who staffs the birth center?

Birth centers are traditionally divided into two types; hospital birth centers and free-standing birth centers. There are probably at least four types though, and they are:

  1. Birth centers that are not only part of a hospital, but actually on hospital grounds.
  2. Birth centers that are part of a hospital but are at a separate location.
  3. Free-standing birth centers staffed by Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs).
  4. Birth centers staffed by lay midwives, Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs), or even by only one midwife in one of these categories.

For the last two categories, you may like to read "Homebirth what kind of midwife to choose?" as well. The same midwives who work at these birth centers may also attend homebirths, and the article gives you an overview of the differences in training depending on your midwife's qualifications. The type of care you will receive, the possibilities to transfer to a hospital quickly, and the actual procedures, will obviously vary depending on the type of birth center. Each of these types of birth center would require its own individual set of questions to ask. Some important general questions that will allow you to get a feel for whether the birth center you are looking at is a good match for you include:

  • What facilities does the birth center offer? This would include neonatal resuscitation options, pain relief for laboring mothers, and birth tubs (for a water birth), for instance.
  • Does insurance cover deliveries at the birth center?
  • How experienced are the staff at the birth center, and what are their qualifications?
  • What is the procedure for transfer to a hospital? When do they recommend transfer? How long does it take (that last one is crucial).

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