February 28, 2024

No matter your birthing plan, it helps to choose a birthing center early.

“Which is your delivery hospital?” This question arises early during pregnancy because services, from prenatal visits through delivery, are generally packaged together for billing purposes with health insurance. But choosing a pregnancy hospital or birthing center involves many more considerations than insurance coverage. And being established with the right hospital for you and your family’s needs is important, even if you have alternative delivery plans, such as a home birth.

To help make your decision, the question to ask yourself is “What do I want my delivery to look like?” That’s the advice of Dr. Rachel Valentine with Vanderbilt Women’s Health. “It makes sense to go to a place where care is individualized,” she said.

How to choose a birthing center

Many factors go into selecting a hospital for your prenatal care and delivery. Choose a facility with researched-based care, Valentine said. “We’re following what the research says,” she explained, “not just doing what’s always been done for a long time. Deliver somewhere where you have passionate and experienced staff.”

“We’re following what the research says, not just doing what’s always been done for a long time. Deliver somewhere where you have passionate and experienced staff.”

Whom do you want to deliver your baby?

Your birthing plan might include a doctor, a certified nurse midwife or a lay midwife. “It needs to be somebody who listens and somebody you trust,” Valentine said. You should choose a hospital that allows your care team to be there, including if you have a doula.

How do you want to give birth?

Even if you’ve had a cesarean section in the past, you may want to try to deliver vaginally. This is called a vaginal birth after C-section, or VBAC. “Certain facilities do this, and some do not,” Valentine explained. A VBAC will not be possible for everyone, but if your provider determines you are a good candidate, then your delivery facility should allow you the option to try while having a contingency plan in place.

Do you want pain control?

Pain control options are also an important consideration. “Some people want to get an epidural, and certain facilities don’t offer that option,” Valentine explained. “On the flip side, some people may want to avoid an epidural and look for a facility that offers nitrous oxide.”

What about lactation support?

Look for a hospital with certified lactation counselors or international board-certified lactation consultants, Valentine said. Certified lactation counselors have more than 50 hours of training and have passed a certification exam. International board-certified lactation consultants have completed more than 90 hours of education and hundreds of hours of clinical practice, have a college education, and have passed a certification exam.

Will you need a NICU?

NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit. Based on your prenatal exams, you may know that your baby will need extra support. Babies who are premature, have health problems or who were born to moms with a high-risk pregnancy may stay in the NICU, where skilled teams provide specialized care. “You can’t always predict whether your baby will need to be in the NICU,” Valentine said, “so having a higher-level NICU available is a nice option.”

When do you need to decide on a birthing center?

You should decide on your birthing center as soon as possible once you know you’re expecting. “You should get your prenatal care with whoever is going to do your delivery,” Valentine said. However, she said that you can change your mind later if you need to for any reason.

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Expert care for you and your baby

As you bring a new, one-of-a-kind life into the world, the Vanderbilt Pregnancy Care and Delivery team is here with experience, skill, care and support from prenatal visits through delivery. To learn more, call 615-343-5700 and explore services below.

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