American Association of Birth Centers

How to Choose a Birth Center

Basic Questions to Ask

In order for you and your family to make a responsible decision in selecting a birth setting, you will need to seek information from the Birth Center. Some of the facts you need to know are:

  1. Are the birthattendants licensed health care providers (i.e., physician, nurse-midwife, or licensed midwife)?
  2. Is the Birth Center accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers?
  3. What are the arrangements for care if complications arise that require
    referral to an obstetrician or admission to a hospital?
  4. What do the charges for care cover and will your insurance plan pay for these services?

Birth Centers should be:

Licensing and Accreditation

Licensing and accreditation give the public and parents a way to decide whether this is a quality center or not. Professional licensing and accrediting agencies provide oversight of the outcomes of care in the center as well as the physical facility.

They are looking at aspects that are very difficult to judge about the quality of care, such as:

  • Charts and pregnancy outcomes
  • Staff relationships
  • Client satisfaction
  • Overall organization of the Birth Center.

They are also checking basic safety features, such as:

  • Fire hazards, smoke alarms, and emergency exits and plans
  • Temperature of the water for washing sheets and towels
  • Temperature and pH balance in the Jacuzzi

Attend an Orientation

Once those basic pieces of licensing and accreditation are there, then you need to go to an orientation. The center should offer an orientation. This should include a tour of the center and a talk about what goes on in that Birth Center.

All of this information should be available to you in the orientation:

  • Do the providers seem professional?
  • Is the location clean?
  • Is it well organized?
  • What kind of insurance does the Birth Center accept?
  • Who is the consulting physician for that Birth Center?
  • Where is the back-up hospital?
  • Do the birth center providers have hospital privileges?
  • Can they stay with the mother in labor and delivery if they do not have hospital privileges?
  • How many women are transferred to a hospital while in labor?
  • What are the most frequent reasons for transfer?
  • Is there a library?
  • Are the handouts thoughtfully put together? Do they look professional?

The answers to these questions will give you some measure of the quality of care in the Birth Center that you are considering.

The most reassuring thing is national accreditation. So look for the sign, that mark of excellence in the freestanding Birth Center. Your Birth Center should be accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers.

A Family Affair

"Best of all, no strangers whisked Sarah off to a distant and impersonal nursery. She ate her first meal and napped with me on the bed. The whole event became a family affair instead of a medical procedure."

-Laura Brackenridge Danahy