Birthing Center or Hospital: So, What’s the Difference?


This is exactly the question I asked myself the first time those (rather surprising if I’m honest!) 2 pink lines blinded me from inside the test window.

I knew it was going to be a little different over here in the US (I’m a British girl, born and bred you see), with so many more maternity care options it seemed, edging their way ever closer to me. So really it was up to me to identify what kind of prenatal care, labor and birth, and postpartum care I wanted for myself and the, ahem, culprit of those 2 little lines.

The problem was, as a first time mama-in-training still trying to wrap my slightly nauseated head around the idea of actually growing a whole person, I didn’t have a bloody clue where to start. Here’s what I’ve learnt along my second pregnancy and Knoxville maternity journey so far:

Birthing Center Or Hospital Knoxville TN | Knoxville Moms Blog

Birthing Centers:

  • These tend to be more geared towards creating a “home away from home,” family-oriented environment. You will often find an in-room area for dad to sleep over, homely decor, access to things like shower/tub or birthing pool during labor, baby stays with mama overnight, medical equipment is placed more discreetly around the room.
  • While hospital birthing centers do still adhere to hospital policies (re: newborn procedures, medical protocols such as a time limit after water breaks etc.), in free standing birth centers you may find yourself with a little more choice.
  • They often are midwife-led units for prenatal care and delivery, with a supportive OB (and pediatrician!) on standby to respond to individual needs and medical emergencies.
  • Hospital birthing centers will have near immediate access to medical facilities such as operating rooms in an emergency situation, whereas free standing birthing centers will usually require a transfer. However it is worth taking a look at the statistical likelihood of medical intervention and emergency in each of these settings, as you weigh your decision.
  • My own birthing center experience was so great, partly because there was no limit to the amount of visitors I could receive after the birth or how often they came. It was so wonderful to have family and friends flit in and out, meeting our little guy (and, ahem, bringing me yummy ‘pick me ups’ too!).
  • Birthing centers as standard tend to employ lactation consultants to support breastfeeding mothers. I was able to contact mine within the weeks following delivery with all my many questions and concerns – such a blessing!

Labor and Delivery Units within a Hospital Setting:

  • Fast access to all manner of medical support and intervention in an emergency situation (re: operating room, NICU etc.)
  • Statistically, you may find that the probability of unnecessary medical intervention or cesarean section rises in a hospital setting (according to the CDC, in 2013 the national c-section rate was 32.7% for your comparison), however this is where the importance of finding a doctor or midwife who understands your wishes and care preferences comes in – and a find like that could include all manner of birthing environments!
  • Take a look at the current cesarean statistics for your chosen or considered facilities – this should help reveal a lot about the experience you are preparing to have!
  • Hospital births are often favored (and with good reason, I’m sure!) for high risk pregnancies and have access to some of the latest medical technologies in the field.
  • Like birthing centers, hospitals often employ lactation consultants now to support breastfeeding mothers – how awesome is that!?
  • If you’re shooting for a natural birth still but really feel that a hospital setting is right for you, why not consider hiring a doula for extra support and advocacy in the delivery room?

Knoxville, TN Birthing Hospitals:

University of Tennessee Medical Center

Tennova Physicans Regional Medical Center

Tennova Turkey Creek Medical Center

Parkwest Medical Center

Knoxville, TN Birthing Centers:

St Mary’s Birth and Midwifery Center

Lisa Ross Birth and Women’s Center

Fort Sanders Regional Birthing Center



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here