Pregnancy: Deciding Where to Deliver

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Pregnancy: Deciding Where to Deliver

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Your choices of where to deliver your baby include a hospital, a birthing centre, or your home. The location you choose may affect, or be affected by, your choice of doctor or midwife.


Most medical doctors (MDs) deliver only at hospitals. Registered midwives may also deliver in some hospitals. Many hospitals offer special birthing rooms that are comfortable and homey, with large beds, wooden furniture such as rocking chairs, and pictures on the walls.

Hospital policies vary with respect to who can be present during the birth besides the partner or labour coach. But most hospitals allow the woman to have visitors during her labour. The hospital may reduce the number of visitors at the delivery to avoid overcrowding and risk of infection.

You can request a tour of the hospitals near you to see what options they offer. The advantage of a hospital birth is the availability of experienced staff and equipment if problems or complications develop. Also, a hospital offers a wide range of options for pain relief.

Birthing centres

Birthing centres are usually staffed by doctors or registered midwives. They have the option of sending you or your baby to a nearby hospital if problems or complications develop. Birthing centres are less formal and less institutional than hospitals. You may be allowed to have several people, including other children and family members, present at the birth.

Birthing centres may not be available in all provinces.

Birthing centres are not recommended if you have a high-risk pregnancy. Emergency medical equipment and options for pain relief are limited.


Some registered midwives will deliver in a home setting, as will lay midwives. A registered midwife is typically supervised by an obstetrician, which is important if you develop pregnancy or labour and delivery complications. Registered midwives have extensive medical training, have passed stringent examinations, and must be certified to practice. Lay midwives are not licensed and are not required to have professional medical training. A lay midwife can be helpful for routine deliveries but may not have the medical training necessary to handle a complicated labour or emergencies.

The advantage of a home birth is that you may feel more comfortable staying in familiar surroundings during labour and delivery, and you can have whomever you want in the room with you.

Like birthing centres, a home birth is not recommended if you have a high-risk pregnancy.

The major disadvantage of a home birth is the risk of an emergency situation, which will require that you or your baby be taken in an ambulance to a hospital. The time it takes to get you or the baby to hospital care may be critical.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised January 27, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.