Birth Centers

Birth Centers and Waterbirth

Baby born with amniotic sac intact in water tub at home delivered by midwife. Photo by Monet Moutrie

Birth Centers provide a home-like, family centered environment for giving birth. Birth Centers offer a holistic approach to care, often integrating herbalists, homeopathic practitioners, chiropractors, acupuncturists, doulas  and more. Birth attendants may be physicians, Certified Nurse-Midwives, Licensed Midwives, Certified Professional Midwives, or  student midwives. In a birth center, you can wear your own clothes, soak in a warm bath for pain relief, listen to music,  walk, assume any position you like, and eat and drink during labor.  Routine medical interventions such as induction of labor, continuous electronic fetal monitoring, IV drips, episiotomies and separation of mother and newborn are not performed routinley. As such, rates of cesarean section in freestanding birth centers are much lower than in hospitals.  In the U.S. today, cesarean section is 33%, and  as major surgery, carries much greater risks to mother and baby than vaginal birth in most cases.  This is a significant advantage of the birth center over hospital birth for low-risk women.


The Safety of Birth Centers

Birth centers are as safe or safer for low-risk mothers delivering in hospitals. While birth centers do not provide any greater measure of safety than homebirth,  precautions  are taken to ensure safety of mother and unborn child. For example, monitoring the mother and baby is routine, and  in case of serious emergency, equipment  is on hand. This includes:  neonatal resuscitation equipment, oxygen, anti-hemmorhaging medications, IVs, suturing materials, etc. Should a serious emergency arise, a transport to the hospital will be necessary., so birth centers work in collaboration with Obstetricians and hospitals.

Outcomes of Care in Birth Centers

The outcomes of births in birth centers was good. According to Outcomes of Care in Birth Centers, The National Birth Center Study (Rooks JP, Weatherby NL, Ernst EK, Stapleton S, Rosen D, Rosenfield A) published in  the  N Engl J Med. 1989 Dec 28;321(26):1804-11,   70.7 percent had only minor complications or none; 7.9 percent had serious emergency complications during labor and delivery or soon thereafter, such as thick meconium or severe shoulder dystocia. One woman in six (15.8 percent) was transferred to a hospital; 2.4 percent had emergency transfers. The National Birth Center Study II  conducted by the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) and published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, the official journal of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM),  included more than 15,500 women who received care in 79 midwife-led birth centers in 33 US states from 2007 through 2010, found that fewer than one in sixteen (6 percent) of participants required a cesarean birth compared to nearly one in four (24 percent ) similarly low-risk women cared for in a hospital setting. Read more at: National Birth Center Study II.

For more information, please see:

National Association of Birth Centers of Color


American Association of Birth Centers at:



 Download a copy of “Having A Baby? Ten Questions to Ask” [Available from CIMS website]: Spanish    English  

Please go to The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services website for more information and additional resources at:




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