Hospital Births: Should I have a Hospital Birth?


In the U.S., hospitals are the most common place for birth (over 90%). Hospitals approach birth by using their technology to manage labor & birth.

What’s that mean to you?

It means hospitals usually view birth as a medical event, dependent on medical intervention (in varying degrees). An intervention means the use of medical technology or medical procedure during the normal laboring or birthing process (i.e.-hooking a laboring mama up to fetal monitoring computers, or using drugs for induction of labor, etc.)

For high risk births, hospitals are hands down the best option, because medical intervention is essential. For low risk births, hospital protocol often requires or strongly encourages medical interventions, sometimes when there is no medical need. Some mamas aren’t concerned about interventions & the associated risks. Others are.

Are you? That’s the question.

Wherever you have your baby, you want the best Evidence Based Care. That’s because Evidence Based Care is based on the best available research & latest evidence. 

What might a hospital birth feel like?

  • Care is routine & standardized. While each of our pregnancies, labors & childbirths are different & unique in our own ways, hospitals, because of the way they’re set up, can’t necessarily treat you differently than other moms. Hospitals have to treat you with the same routines and protocols (that’s a fancy way of saying rules) as everyone else because that’s their ‘standard mode of operation’. No special, unique or VIP treatment at hospitals (unless you’re Beyoncé ;) ).
  • Nurses manage your labor (and the labor of many other women) by monitoring technology at their nurse station (and of course they make their rounds to stop in to check on ya). Moms consistently tell us this was one of their biggest surprises. No medical provider is in the room “holding your hand” the whole time- Labor & birth care is not continuous. That means one person is not giving you emotional, physical & informational support consistently throughout labor & birth. 
  • Different interventions are often used routinely due to hospital protocol, regardless of if it is medically required for mom or baby. For example, labor is progressing slowly, but labor staff decides to speed labor up by inducing with the drug Pitocin. (even though mom & baby had no distress, had no medical need requiring induction & mom didn’t want it until there was a compelling medical need) The mom didn’t know she could say “I don’t want an induction unless I or my baby is in distress & there is a clear medical requirement”. This scenario is common.  

Benefits Moms like about Hospital Births 

  • Feeling of security if something goes wrong 
  • Best place to be if considered “high risk” or you develop serious complications
  • Some interventions you might want are only offered at hospital (i.e.-an epidural is only offered in a hospital due to its associated risks, etc.) 

What Moms don’t like about Hospital Births 

  • Care is not personal or individualized to your specific needs 
  • Restrictions of laboring (usually don’t have the freedom to move around as much or use other options like birthing balls, showers, tubs or different birthing positions. But every hospital is different, so find out in detail what you can do) 
  • You’re usually not allowed to eat or drink during labor- Evidence doesn’t support this, but many hospitals still don’t allow it
  • Pressure from staff to induce or take Epidural (for those wanting intervention free births)
  • Constant interruptions from rotating staff with different personalities (people are people) 

Let’s get real. All hospitals are not created equal.

Are all schools the same? Of course not. Well neither are hospitals. Hospitals operate under different sets of protocols, policies & have physicians & nurses with differing sets of skills. When you go to a hospital, expect your labor & birth to be managed by their standard “mode of operation”, which is referred to as their “standard of care”. Each hospitals “standard of care” will be different.

This definitely does not mean a home birth is your solution…

But that you need to be ready to play by hospital rules & to possibly feel some pressure from hospital staff for interventions (which often comes from hospital protocol). Even when there is no medical requirement & mom and baby are fine. Expect it. Because the evidence from large studies of 1000′s of moms says it happens (evidence here). By expecting it, you’re better prepared to handle it, whether you want the intervention or not (doulas are a great help in these situations). We’re giving it to ya straight mama. No unicorns.

It’s important you understand this is common, so you make the best decision for YOU.

Hospital birthing classes don’t talk about this, because…well they’re in hospitals. Ask around to find moms who’ve birthed in “that specific hospital” to learn the details (and ideally that same provider too). You’ll be glad you did.

Some hospitals are fantastic options for birth. Others are not. Just because medical professionals & amazing medical technology exist under their roof, that does not mean hospitals or providers use their tools in the best possible way to optimize your or your baby’s health. Hospitals do not automatically equate to Health {listen to this story from NPR on doctors doing unnecessary procedures- no one looks out for you better than you}.

For Example- If you want an unmedicated vaginal birth in a hospital, you’ll want to ask what the hospital & providers rates are for each intervention (breaking your water (which is called artificially rupturing membrane), Pitocin inductions, episiotomies, use of forceps & vacuums for delivery, c-section, etc.). It’s not in your best interest to go to a hospital with high rates of interventions & a 45% C-Section rate.

Moms often make these mistakes, because they didn’t know they had options. Learn from their mistakes. You have options. You decide where you go, who your provider is & what can happen in the hospital (to some degree). There are hospitals with C-Section rates below 10%. Asking a few basic questions goes a longggg way in helping you have a better birth.

Something to think about…Hospital recommendations for you & your baby might be based on “that’s how we do it around here” & not on the research & Evidence Based Care (hospitals across the street from each other might give 2 totally different recommendations).

That means the medical procedure suggested by your provider, that you & your baby undergo, may not be for any medical reason. We realize how crazy & coo coo that sounds. Don’t take our word for it, ask around & come to your own conclusions.

We want to be clear as a bell.

Hospitals are fabulous, life-saving institutions for emergencies requiring medical interventions. Some hospitals are GREAT places to give birth. Others are not. Some hospitals use medical interventions when there is no medical need. This unnecessarily increases the risk for you & your baby, because every intervention has some associated risk. It’s up to you to decide if the benefit is worth the risk. 

Here’s an example…If your spouse was told they needed to have major stomach surgery, but after getting a second opinion & learning the Research & that Evidenced Based Care said there was no medical need to have stomach surgery…would your spouse just have it anyway?

Didn’t think so. Then why would you allow anyone to perform major stomach surgery on you, with your baby, when the overwhelming evidence says it isn’t necessary? That’s slightly insane. 

We can help you learn to avoid that scenario.

“For some reason with birth, we don’t ask the same detailed questions from hospitals & providers as we do with other major hospital events & procedures. Why not?”  click to tweet

But we can! Every mom (couple) needs to think about what is “right” for them.

*We had an incredible hospital birth experience with our first. We did the research & found a provider who supported what we wanted and made sure communication was solid.   


Bottom line, hospitals are different & operate under different protocols. You want to find out how a hospital’s protocol (and the doctors or midwives working there) will help you accomplish your goal well before labor starts. It’s most important you get the best Evidence Based Care that is based on the best available research & evidence.

Many moms have regrets over this topic. Because they learned AFTER BIRTH they could’ve had a very different experience & different outcomes, had they learned their options & how much control they had. It’s more than you think. 

“If you do not know where you are going, you’ll end up going somewhere else.”-Yogi Berra 

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