Menu

OB-GYN or midwife, hospital or home? Your guide to decide how + where to labor

It’s time to think about where you want to have your baby, and who you want to take care of you.

OB-GYN or midwife, hospital or home? Your guide to decide how + where to labor

It’s time to think about where you want to have your baby, and who you want to take care of you while you are pregnant and in labor.


Do you like your current practitioner so far? If you’re having misgivings, take note. If you’re super happy, stay the course.

You definitely have some choices here. Before we get into them, please remember that this is YOUR BIRTH. Do what feels right for you. Factors such as what you have access to, your insurance and underlying medical conditions may limit your options, but ultimately you make the decisions that are best for you.

FEATURED VIDEO

It’s important to get reflective and honest: Research shows that women who are not thrilled with their birthing place choice can feel anxious throughout pregnancy. So choose wisely, my friend, and remember that you can always change your mind. Let’s break down your options for where to give birth and who to have guide your pregnancy and deliver your baby.

Where to give birth: hospital, birth center or home


1. Hospital

The majority of women in the United States give birth in a hospital labor and delivery unit. Women in hospitals have access to a wide range of medical interventions including continuous monitoring, pain medication and labor-inducing Pitocin, and are also down the hall from an operating room in case a cesarean section becomes necessary. You can be attended by an physician, midwife or doctor of osteopathic medicine in a hospital.

Intervention rates are the highest in hospitals; more than half of women get epidurals, and the chances of having a C-section are the greatest. (Check out this Consumer Reports guide to see whether your potential hospital shares its C-section rates.)

Is this the right option for me?

Women who choose hospital births may have a health condition that requires more advanced medical care. They may know that they want to have an epidural for their birth, or they may simply feel most comfortable in a hospital setting.

2. Birth center

The American Association for Birth Centers defines a birth center this way:

A birth center [is] a home-like setting where care providers, usually midwives, provide family-centered care to healthy pregnant women. Most birth centers are located separately from hospitals, while a few are physically inside hospital buildings.

A large study of more than 15,000 women found that birth centers are a safe place for women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth, and that women experienced lower rates of cesarean sections and other interventions than those who gave birth in a hospital. Birth centers work with hospitals, so if an issue comes up during your birth, you can be transferred to receive more medicalized care.

Is this the right option for me?

Women who choose birth centers have low-risk pregnancies and want an unmedicated birth in a cozy setting, but may not be able or want to have a home birth. Some birth centers do administer some forms of pain medications, but not epidurals.

3. Home birth

Just like it sounds, a home birth is when you give birth in your home. Less than 1% of women have home births, but this number is on the rise. You’ll be attended by an experienced midwife (though some physicians and doctors of osteopathic medicine do make house calls). The midwife will bring a big kit of equipment with her, including emergency medications and oxygen. She’ll check the baby’s heart rate periodically with a doppler and will be there to ensure your and your baby’s safety throughout the labor and birth. People often ask about the safety of home birth, and indeed it is a controversial topic. The Cochrane Journal found:

There is no strong evidence from randomized trials to favor either planned hospital birth or planned home birth for low-risk pregnant women. 

But we need more studies. Women who have home births do enjoy fewer interventions and many describe the experience as life changing.

Is this the right option for me?

Women who choose home births have low-risk pregnancies; want to have unmedicated, low-intervention births; and feel that they will be safest and most comfortable birthing at home.

Who will catch your baby: obstetrician, family physician, midwife or doctor of osteopathic medicine


1. Obstetrician

Obstetricians, or OB-GYNs, are medical physicians who specialize in pregnancy and delivering babies, as well as gynecological care to non-pregnant ladies. OB-GYNs care for all types of pregnancies, though their focus is usually in high risk. They can perform surgery if needed (like a C-section), and they predominantly work in hospitals.

2. Family physician

Family physicians are doctors who care for the entire family, and this sometimes includes pregnancy and birth. They usually care for low-risk pregnancies, though this is not always the case. You’ll find them attending births in hospitals and at home.

3. Midwife

The word midwife is German, and means “with woman.” Midwives are highly trained professionals who provide holistic care and support to women through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. They also care for non-pregnant women. A few things to know:

  • Midwives attend birth in hospitals, birth centers and at home.
  • Midwifery care often results in fewer medical interventions, though you absolutely can still have an epidural, ultrasounds and other procedures with a midwife.
  • Midwives usually care for low-risk pregnancies. If you require additional medical interventions during your pregnancy or birth, you will likely be transferred to the care of an obstetrician.

To learn more about midwives, you can visit the American College of Nurse-Midwives and the Midwives Alliance of North America.

4. Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO)

DOs are licensed physicians who, in this case, specialize in caring for women during pregnancy and birth, as well as provide gynecologic care. The American Osteopathic Association states:

Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well.

DOs work in all birth settings.

It’s a lot to think about, we know. If you’re having a hard time deciding, you can do some interviewing: Meet with a few types of providers, ask questions and make a decision that is informed and feels right.

You are one smart lady: You know what you need and under what circumstances you will thrive.

In other words, you’ve got this.

Join Motherly

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play