Maternity Care Options

Choosing Your Caregiver, Birthplace, Childbirth Classes, and Labor Support – Why does it matter??

The first priority is safety. If you are having a high risk pregnancy, or expect to have complications in your labor or expect your baby to have health challenges, then you are best served by an obstetrician and a high tech hospital. However, if you’re expecting a low risk pregnancy, labor and birth, then you have many options available to you, including OB’s, family practice docs, midwives, hospitals, birth centers, and home birth.

For the majority of families, birth is a positive experience overall. When asked to reflect on it later, most will have stories of challenging times or awkward moments, but feel that the result (the baby) was worth it. However, there’s a difference between families saying a birth was fine, and families saying it was FABULOUS. And the majority of the people who say it was fabulous will attribute that to the choices they made about caregiver, birthplace, preparation, and support. (Click on links in the right hand sidebar to learn more about your options in each of these categories.)

On average, in general:

  • parents who chose childbirth classes felt more prepared than those who did not
  • parents who used a midwife were more satisfied than those who used an OB
  • parents who had planned and had an out-of-hospital birth were more satisfied than those who had a hospital birth (although those who planned an out-of-hospital birth and needed to transfer for medical reasons were the least satisfied)
  • parents who used a doula were more satisfied than those who did not
  • low risk parents who planned and had an out-of-hospital birth with midwives experienced fewer routine interventions (such as IV, electronic monitoring, induction and augmentation) than those who had a hospital birth with a physician supervising their care, but had similar outcomes safety-wise

When you look only at parents who had a fabulous birth (i.e. those who rated their overall satisfaction with their birth as a 10 out of 10) – Source info

  • 47% of those who used a licensed midwife rated their birth 10 out of 10 vs. 39% of family practice clients and 33% of both nurse-midwifery clients and OB clients
  • 79% of those giving birth in an out of hospital birth center rated their birth as 10 out of 10 vs. 74% of home birthers and 28% of hospital birthers
  • 38% of those using a birth doula rated their birth a 10 out of 10 vs. 32% of those who had considered using a doula but chose not to

But, of course, those are “average” experiences. There are certainly many women birthing in hospitals with an OB and without a doula who have fabulous experiences!

Every situation is unique, with individual providers and individual birthplaces that are a perfect match or not a perfect match for any individual family. Each expectant family can:

  • first evaluate their own goals and values – what do you want your birth to be like
  • then research their options
  • then meet with possible caregivers or tour possible birthplaces to really get the “vibe” of the place

Any caregiver or birthplace that helps you to feel respected, empowered, safe, and nurtured can lead to a satisfying birth experience.

For lots more information on this topic, including a quiz to help you decide what’s right for you, and testimonials from parents about their experience with various options, check out Great Starts Guide here:



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