A hospital or a birth centre?

Women who labour in birth centres are, on the whole, more satisfied with their birth experiences than those who deliver in hospitals. Clients of birth centres also have significantly fewer medical interventions (such as Caesarean sections) and are more likely to continue breastfeeding at one-to-two months postpartum.

Birth centres aren’t for everyone

Many hospital interventions are not available at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, including epidurals and narcotics to relieve pain, medicines to induce and augment labour, electronic devices to monitor fetal heart rate, and instruments such as forceps and vacuums to aid in delivery.

The differences at a glance

Birth Centre

  • Lowered risk of obstetric interventions, including Caesarean sections
  • Quiet, home-like environment with cozy, private rooms, natural lighting and access to outdoor spaces
  • Freedom to control the birthing-room environment
  • Spacious birthing tubs, and the option to have a water birth
  • Facilities for family members, such as a kitchen and dining area, and a children’s play area, and no restrictions on number of support people
  • Availability of birthing stools, yoga balls, and hanging slings
  • Free parking
  • Requirement to leave within four hours

Hospital

  • Availability of epidurals and narcotics
  • Access to electronic fetal monitoring
  • Presence of paediatricians and other medical specialists
  • Freedom, in some cases, to choose a midwife, obstetrician or family physician as your primary care provider
  • No need to transfer mid-labour should you require an induction or augmentation of labour, a Caesarean section or other hospital-based services
  • Availability of forceps or a vacuum to help with your delivery
  • Option to stay for 24 hours or more

Note that not all hospitals are the same. Some hospitals are equipped with showers and large tubs, and welcome labouring women to play music, walk around, and eat and drink as they wish. Others are less flexible. Talk to your healthcare provider about the policies, practices and amenities of your receiving hospital.