Experts Advise What To Look For When Choosing Where To Give Birth

Choosing where you will give birth is a big decision. While the health of you and your baby should be the primary factor, it's not the only one. Your baby's delivery will be one of the biggest moments of your life. In addition to painting the perfect scene to welcome them into the world, you'll also want to consider your comfort and ease. At the same time, your baby's birth will also involve a team of people, including your doctor or midwife, your partner, parents, and possibly in-laws.


Still, your search should begin with safety first. Having your baby at home may sound like a nice idea, but it has drawbacks and may not be the safest option. Home births are three times more likely to result in babies having neurological damage or seizures (via WebMD). Similarly, the risk of infant death for home births is "twice as high" as those that take place in a hospital. For that reason, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains that births should take place in a hospital.

How your doctor or midwife factors into your hospital decision

Another decision that needs to be made before you have your baby, and preferably early on, is your maternity care team. When picking a doctor or midwife, you have to make sure they have the privileges to deliver at the hospital you want. OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Frink tells U.S. News & Health Report that healthcare providers usually have privileges to a few different hospitals so you can find one that aligns with your beliefs.


"Your concerns, your fears, your wants and hopes about labor experience goes – you want all those components to be heard and valued by the care team that's working with you," says Frink. "By the same token, you want to have a team of professionals that, once they listen to those things, are going to give you some options that are medically appropriate for you."

Keep in mind, not all hospitals will accept your insurance. "You likely can't just go anywhere," says Neel Shah, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School tells The Bump. Your insurance plan can list the hospitals in your area that accept your health insurance.

Rate of surgical intervention in hospital

Not all hospitals offer the same level of maternity care, and one of the factors to look at is surgical rates (via Healthgrades). Though cesarean sections are relief-saving in an emergency, you don't want to undergo one unnecessarily.


Dr. Holly Loudon, an OB-GYN, chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Mount Sinai in New York says cesarean rates are a big consideration (via U.S. News & Health Report). "It's really important to look at that C-section rate and compare it with other hospitals in the region when you're choosing where you want to deliver," explains Loudon who says that hospitals often determine the rates that C-sections are performed as well as individual doctors.

Another rate to investigate is the incidences of episiotomy, a surgical incision made to the vagina to help deliver the baby. "[E]pisiotomies have become something that used to be done routinely and now are very rarely needed," says Loudon.


More questions to ask

Once you find a hospital where your doctor or midwife can practice and one that accepts your health insurance, ask if the hospital has a neonatal intensive care unit should your baby require extra care, is delivered prematurely, or has low birth weight (via Stanford Medicine). Some hospitals have to transport newborns who require extra care to hospitals with NICUs. This is especially important if you have a high-risk pregnancy.


A great way to see how you feel about the place is to take a hospital tour of the maternity ward (via What To Expect). Important questions to ask include whether your baby can stay with you in the room overnight or can be sent to the nursery, if your partner can stay overnight and when they can visit (visiting hours are typically different for partner), if you have a choice between a private or shared room (via BabyCenter). Finally, it's worth it to find out who is allowed in the delivery room, whether siblings can be present, rules for visiting hours, and what COVID precautions are currently in place.