I knew I didn’t want to give birth in a hospital even before I was pregnant. I had always wanted to experience natural childbirth and, by all accounts, that’s much easier outside of a hospital. I had a firm belief that, barring any complications, my body could deliver a baby without medical help. The more I learned about hospital births when compared to home births or birth center deliveries, the more convinced I was that I had made the right decision for me.

I have had two lovely births. One in a birth center. One at home. Both under the loving guidance of Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM).

Out-of-hospital births are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. Many women were eager to share why they had chosen that route. For some it was a no-brainer, for others it was only decided after an unpleasant delivery in a hospital.

Some Women Chose An Out-Of-Hospital Birth After Delivering In A Hospital

“I had my first in the hospital, a natural birth, at 34 years old. I was thankful to leave with a healthy baby, but, even with a midwife present, it felt as though the institution was running the show. At nearly 38, we knew the second was our last. I wanted it to be MY birth that time. Friends had talked about home births and it sounded so empowering. And it was. In the 15 years since, I've had some amazing experiences, but that home birth is the one that constantly reminds me of how strong and capable I can be.” — Lisa, 53

My first birth, I wasn't sure if I wanted a hospital birth or a birth center birth. I read a lot of Ina May [Gaskin] and a lot of scary pro-hospital info. I found the contradictory info. infuriating. In the end, I decided that the critique of hospital births had been around for so long that things must have changed. I also thought not being able to eat or move around just didn't seem like that big a deal and I felt safer with a doctor. Well, 36 hours into a questionably necessary induction, I was weak and starving, trying to push my baby out. I was asked: ‘How do you feel about a c-section?’ Ummm, what? Do I need one?

I knew I wanted a different experience with my second child.

One intervention led to another and even with my epidural, I found the whole experience excruciating and scary. After delivery, the baby was handed to me swaddled so we didn't get skin to skin. The nurses in recovery were so busy, they would race into my room and never had time to help baby latch. By the time I saw a lactation consultant the next morning I hadn't successfully nursed in over 12 hours. I had supply problems that lasted for months as a result. I knew I wanted a different experience with my second child. I went to a birth center and it was completely perfect. I could eat and move and not interfere with my body's inherent ability to birth. I felt so supported at the birth center. After delivery a nurse helped me feed my daughter every time she showed signs of hunger. By the time I left I was confident we were off to a good start. Excited to have number three at the birth center any day now!” — Joanna, 29

Some Women Believe Hospitals Are For People Who Are Actually Ill

“Hospitals are somewhere you go if you are sick. I had to deliver my first daughter at 23 weeks in a hospital. I may have some post-traumatic stress from that. I also feel like I will get honest care from [my birth center midwives].” — Christin, 35

“I chose not to birth in a hospital because pregnancy isn't an illness!” — Aimee, 29

I always thought going to a hospital strange for having a baby, but thought that was the norm. At some point (prior to babies), I ran across Rikki Lake's story and it got me researching. I started to learn more and more about hospital births and confirmed what I had already felt deep down: birth is a natural process and should be supported as such, not seen as constant danger or a diagnosis waiting to happen.

I wanted to be in the comfort of my own home.

I ended up having to transfer to a hospital for my first birth (long labor and meconium particulates in the water), and while it was necessary and I am extremely grateful for the care they provided my daughter, the experience wasn't reflective of a natural process. I'm not sure how to explain that last part. It just didn't seem normal to me to give birth in a hospital. I wanted to be in the comfort of my own home where I didn't have to worry about what the doctors were discussing behind the curtain as to what to do with me.” — Melody, 37

“I’m married to an RN and only gonna set foot in a hospital when it's truly necessary.” — Krys, 28

Some Find Giving Birth In A Hospital Less Appealing


I chose home birth because I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In SITU (DCIS) at the same time as becoming pregnant. I was coerced into surgery and pushed by the medical establishment toward many treatments I did not want, nor was there evidence they would truly benefit my situation. I could not stand the idea of this happening in birth also. After researching the typical birth and then home birth, there was no question. We had an uncomplicated birth and it would of most likely gone the other way at a hospital because my son was an unforeseen 10 pounds and born on July 4.” — Annie, 31

My biggest fear all my adult life was giving birth. Upon some reflection, I realized that it wasn't a fear of being in pain (which would be completely understandable), but a fear of being poked and prodded during checkups and labor. The bright lights, the IVs, the hospital gowns, the feeling that, if things didn't go *exactly* textbook, there would need to be interventions. The notion that someone would have to tell me to push instead of just letting it happen when I felt it coming. Being confined to my bed, on my back during labor. Now, I understand that hospital births aren't all like that. But this fear I had came from those images. When I realized I had a choice to birth outside of a hospital, in a home-like setting, my fears largely melted away. I wasn't exactly excited about having a completely uneducated birth, but I'm so glad I did. I felt so empowered, which is what I wish every person giving birth could feel.” — Rachael, 33

Some Women Just Want To Give Birth Their Way

I wanted to birth on my terms: no drugs, no interventions, [to] move freely, eat, drink, laugh. I delivered two of my children in water at a birth center and loved it.” — Shirin, 36

“When I got pregnant, I had little to no knowledge about out-of -hospital options – I just knew I had always been freaked out by the idea of labor. After doing some research, I realized two things: 1. The ability to move, eat, and be in an intimate setting (not hospital) made me feel more confident about giving birth than the availability of drugs; 2. If I had to go through labor, I might as well be in an environment where they believed that birth was ‘empowering’ rather than something to be feared. I wanted to understand what people meant by the fact that they ‘loved their birth experience’, because that seemed so foreign compared to what I had always heard. I'm grateful that I can say I had an AMAZING birth experience and now am an advocate for it!” — Sarah, 29

I wanted to give birth in a place where I was totally supported and the belief was that women's bodies are perfectly capable of having babies without interventions in most cases. I was 34 when my first was born and I had started the pregnancy with an OB. I knew that I needed to switch to a birth center when I began asking about c-section rates at the hospital (nearly 40 percent) and heard that I really needed to see how difficult/painful labor was before I could decide that I wanted to be epidural-free.

I also loved having my baby in a real bed where she, my husband, and I could snuggle together.

I loved the amount of time the midwives spent with me at appointments, and I felt like if I had ended up with a c-section, it would have been truly necessary. Two of my friends pregnant at the same time I was were with OBs and both had c-sections, and they still wonder if it could have been different. I also loved having my baby in a real bed where she, my husband, and I could snuggle together all night after she was born and where she didn't leave my arms until the next morning and she was weighed, measured, and bathed as we got ready to leave. When I found out that I was expecting twins the second time around, I cried because I couldn't go back to the birth center.” — Kristin, 43

I chose to give birth at home because I wanted to know exactly who would be my care provider when I was bringing my baby earthside, and I really wanted to know that person and for her to know me. Instead of wondering who I would ‘get’ from a big practice where I had to make an effort just to meet everyone, I was able to build up a relationship with my midwife so I felt safe and secure.” — Rebecca, 31

For me, birth is a normal, natural event in a woman's life. It isn't a medical emergency – especially when you are a low-risk, healthy woman. I wanted my birth to proceed as naturally as possible and I wanted to do things my way. I knew that the policies and procedures of the hospital would interfere and interrupt the normal process. At home, I was able to be surrounded only by people I knew and trusted, I was able to eat and drink as I needed to, I was able to take a bath and shower. I was able to birth my baby in the comfort of my own bed in whatever position I chose. It was so amazing and definitely one of the best experiences of my life.” — Bridget, 43

Some Women Used Life Experience To Guide Their Choice

Tones Photos

I joined the Peace Corps out of college and lived in a rural village in Zambia for two years. The women there had to walk five miles to the nearest health clinic for anything, much less to give birth. they were badasses about just about everything and I vowed that I would also become a ‘woman of the world’. I suppose I thought that anything less than an unmedicated birth would be some sort of cop out after living amongst such a strength and courage. That and my time working in sociology opened my eyes to the medicalization of childbirth. I've always sought out alternatives to the norms and I suppose birthing was no different. I also wanted to be fully aware during what I foresaw would be the most profound spiritual and physical experience of my life.” — Emily, 38

I'm a chemist and I know there is no such thing as medication that doesn't affect the baby. We just may not be able to detect the effect. I've also seen some questionable health care and am generally distrustful of doctors. They've messed up a lot with me. So I'd rather have my body do its thing without intervention if possible. I trust God over doctors. But I want to have an option for help should I need it without pressure for intervention.” — Marta, 33

Images: eyeliam, Tones Photos, Juanedc/Flickr; Lauren Preti Photography and Olivia Hinebaugh (3)