While pregnant with her first child, Catherine Antoine found herself disappointed with her OBGYN. Following one appointment in particular, Antoine decided it was time to take a different approach to her birth.

“The visit felt very routine; almost like I was just a number,” she told 21Ninety. “There was no explanation of tests that were run and the provider stated that she would only provide care until I was 20 weeks.”

The lack of personal connection with her OBGYN led Antoine to look elsewhere for prenatal care. While looking for other options for healthcare providers, she found the Atlanta Birth Center. There, she gravitated towards the center’s personal care and holistic approach to labor and delivery.

“I knew I had found the right place that allowed me to have flexibility with my pain management without epidurals and provided many informed choices throughout my pregnancy,” Antoine said. “I also loved the long appointments to discuss any questions I had about the journey and to get to know the staff more.” 

The Atlanta Birth Center is a non-profit organization and is the only, nationally accredited birthing center in the Atlanta area. Unlike a traditional hospital setting, this center follows a midwifery model of care. The midwife model centers around the desires and needs of the childbearing mother before birth, during labor and throughout postpartum. 

Antoine opted for a water birth at the Atlanta Birth Center in 2022. She described her experience as positive and supportive throughout the entire process. During her water birth, she was given a cottage-like suite labor in. Sage and lavender fragrances filled the room, creating a calming and relaxing atmosphere.

“The whole process never felt rushed or unaccommodating and full of choices,” Antoine said. “Sometimes I walked around to progress my contractions and sometimes I just rested. Everyone was there to support me in whatever holistic way they could.”

Antoine’s positive experience coming from a birthing center is a part of the shift of more women steering away from delivery rooms in hospitals. When trying to decide which route to take, there are several factors to consider.

What Is A Birthing Center?

A birthing center is a healthcare facility that uses midwifery and wellness as the primary courses of action for childbirth. According to the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC), these centers are guided by five principles. Those principles are prevention, sensitivity, safety, appropriate medical intervention and cost-effectiveness. 

“I would suspect that people are moving towards birthing centers to attempt to avoid the routine interventions that happen in hospitals,” Tamara Taitt, executive director of the Atlanta Birth Center, said. “The national rate of C-sections hovers around 33 percent. Most birth centers have C-section rates that are under 15%.”

Birthing Center vs. Hospital

One of the major differences noted is the personal care and atmosphere of the two. Birthing centers prioritize their space being family and women centered. In comparison, hospitals may feel more sterile and less personal to some moms-to-be. Another difference is that hospitals provide the technology needed if something were to go awry during labor. Birth centers resolve most complications with their onsite resources. However, transferring to a nearby hospital if necessary is an option.

Pros and Cons of Birthing Centers

Fewer C-sections, lower infertility rates, reduced use of pain medications, fewer hospital visits during pregnancy, greater prenatal education and others are the benefits of using a birthing center.

“The enhanced focus on being patient centered, being with the person, listening to them, having that shared decision making and responsibility creates an opportunity for a better healthcare experience,” Taitt said. “Black women are turning to midwives and birth centers in pursuit of that better patient provider dynamic that has the opportunity to deliver a better experience overall.” 

A few cons include not being able to select your delivery date, obstetricians are not available and limited pain relief options.

Are Birthing Centers Safe

According to researchers, birthing centers have been deemed a good option for low risk pregnancies. Longer prenatal visits, personalized care, education and attentiveness post delivery and birthing centers’ core values contribute to the improved outcomes of natural delivery.