Top 25 Questions to Ask a Birth Center

Navigating Options

There are a lot of things that pregnant families need to navigate in order to welcome a new little one. Where to bring your baby into the world is one of those big decisions (even pre-pandemic it’s a critical decision… but even more so now). Right now, the world looks a little different than it ever has, and the navigation seems a little heavier. Babies don’t wait for pandemics to be over or stay-at-home orders to no longer be in effect; they’re always on their own timeline (that doesn’t end at birth, those little nocturnal babes will continue to keep you on your toes). And because of that, more families are searching for options to birth outside of hospitals, which are predicted to be at capacity within the next couple of weeks and into the next couple of months (depending on where you live).

Hospital maternity wards could also potentially expose COVID-19 to you and your family through other patients or healthcare workers (due to asymptomatic people or those who’ve knowingly or unknowingly been exposed). And because these facilities need to try and limit the sheer amount of people that enter their buildings, they’ve set up strict visitor guidelines— in some places that means excluded partners and birth support people, like doulas or family members. 

What a Birth Center Provides

A freestanding birth center is an option for families looking for the comfort of home (or honestly, a spa — they’re freaking fantastic), but with additional resources, pain management options, and support. Birth centers are equipped to provide routine care and some emergency care. They typically have a staff of certified and licensed midwives and labor and delivery nurses. Some have their own doulas, chiropractors, and lactation consultants. There can be variations from center to center. Because of that, parents looking for this type of option should be equipped with questions to ask each center.

Having these questions on hand is especially important right now, because most birth centers are not doing tours due to COVID-19. A tour can give you the feel of the overall culture of a place and many of the questions you might have thought of in conversation while touring, might not occur as naturally through a telephone or video chat. To enable the conversation, here are 25 important questions to ask a birth center.

All the Questions…

Care Model

  • What is your overall birth philosophy?
  • Is there a team of midwives? Will I receive care from one or many midwives, and can I choose the midwife that is with me during birth? 
  • What are the credentials of the care team?
  • Do you practice evidence based care? 

Prenatal Care

  • What do prenatal visits look like at your birth center? Who is part of the prenatal team and birth team?
  • What type of conditions/risks in pregnancy would merit a transfer of my maternity care to a hospital. Would you still play a role in my care?
  • What is your center doing differently during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Baby

  • Are you certified in neonatal resuscitation? Do you have equipment to perform it?
  • Do you promote skin to skin contact with my baby after birth?
  • Do you practice delayed umbilical cord clamping?
  • What does newborn care look like at your center?
  • How does your center support breast/chest feeding?

Postpartum Care

  • How long is the maximum stay at the center after giving birth?
  • What type of postpartum care do you provide? Is this care at the center or do you provide home visits?

Logistics + Comfort Measures

  • Who can I bring for my birth? Partner, family, doula, birth photographer, etc.
  • What type of comfort measures do you recommend or provide?
  • How do you monitor the baby during labor?
  • What type of complications could arise during labor or postpartum, what are your experiences with them and how do you handle them?

Interventions

  • What are your practices if labor is progressing slowly?
  • What is your percentage of episiotomies?

Transfers

  • What complications during labor or postpartum would require a transfer to a hospital? What hospital would I be transferred to, and would the center’s midwife still be involved in my care?
  • What would merit my baby being transferred to a hospital, and what is your percentage of transfers for newborns?
  • What percentage of birthing people that labor at your center have a Cesarean birth?

Cost and Insurance

  • What is the cost to give birth at your birth center?
  • Do you accept my insurance or provide different payment options?

Download this PDF checklist to easily keep track of answers to these questions during your birth center search.

The Right Fit

Finding the right fit in choosing where to birth your baby can make all the difference in your overall experience. And that experience doesn’t end with you, it affects your partner and your new little one. Their entrance is a time-stamped, monumental event that’s physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional for everyone. The calmest, safest, and most joyful experience is the goal for every birth. We wish you all of those things and more in both finding the perfect fit for your family and your sweet baby’s beautiful entrance into this world.

All of our love.