Where can I get maternity care?
Most childbearing women in the United States are healthy and can choose to give birth in a hospital, in- or out-of-hospital birth center or at home.
If you have a serious medical condition or are at high risk for developing such a condition, you will probably want to plan to give birth in a hospital and be in the care of a doctor who is board-certified in obstetrics. Your care provider can tell you about situations that could require more specialized care.
How do birth settings differ?
Places where women give birth can vary in important ways:
- Their culture about the birthing process (also called “philosophy of birth”). (For example, do they view the childbirth process as heavily dependent on technology or on healthy body processes?)
- Style of practice, such as how much time care providers spend with you, how much information you receive, your involvement in decision-making, and the types of interventions (like cesarean birth) that care providers might use and how quick they are to use them.
- The number and type of care providers who practice within the setting and patients’ access to specialized care.
What should I think about when choosing where I will give birth?
The following are signs of an excellent choice of birthplace:
- The place of birth offers care based on the best available research about what is safe and effective.
- The environment and practices in the birth setting work to support your body’s natural ability to give birth, rather than disrupt it.
- The staff is committed and able to provide you with lots of support, including comfort and information.
- The setting offers individualized care based on your health needs, the needs of your baby and your personal preferences and values.
Try to avoid choosing a place of birth solely based on location, insurance coverage, a friend’s recommendation, or because you have used that hospital for other health care needs. While these things may factor into your final decision, you will want to learn about the full range of maternity care services a hospital or birth center offers before deciding whether it is right for you.
Is where I give birth related to the care provider I choose?
Yes. Where you give birth and who provides your maternity care are closely connected. You will want to choose a birth setting that has care providers who will meet your needs in pregnancy, during labor and birth, and after birth.
For example, if you decide to give birth in a hospital, your care provider will be a physician or, if available, a midwife who practices there. Midwives usually provide care in out-of-hospital birth centers or home births, while physicians occasionally attend births in these settings. Read the Choosing a Maternity Care Provider section for more details about what the best available research says about different types of maternity care providers. In brief, care led by midwives either has important advantages or is not different from care led by doctors for many different outcomes.
What will my insurance cover?
You will need to make some phone calls to answer this common question. First, call your chosen birth setting and be sure that it accepts your insurance. (Information on the website may be out of date, so a phone call is best.)
If your chosen birth setting does accept your insurance, you need to call your insurance company and ask:
- Does my plan cover care in my chosen birth setting? (Write down the name and location before you call.)
- Does my plan cover the care provider I have chosen?
- Are any specific maternity services not covered? (For example, if you are interested in giving birth in an out-of-hospital birth center or at home or in having a doula, it would be wise to understand your insurer’s policies on these services.)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has brought important changes to maternity care insurance coverage. You can access fact sheets about the ACA’s benefits for pregnant women and new parents at NationalPartnership.org/enroll.