Most women have very little experience with the health care system before becoming pregnant. Unless you have had a serious or chronic illness before, your experience accessing health care is probably limited to occasional health check-ups and visits to a health care provider when you are sick or have other concerns. For many women, their first experience being hospitalized is for childbirth.

The U.S. health care system is complex and, unfortunately, has major problems that can sometimes make people sicker rather than healthier. The maternity care system is no exception. Getting excellent care and having a safe, healthy, and satisfying pregnancy and birth experience can be challenging. It is much more likely when you know your maternity care options and participate actively in all aspects of your care and your baby’s care.

This section of the website provides the basic information women need to make sense of our maternity care system and learn how to navigate it to achieve a healthy and safe birth.  
  • Why Maternity Quality Matters provides an overview of the problems in our maternity care system and how we can better measure and improve maternity care quality.
  • Needs of Healthy Childbearing Women summarizes the best approach to care of healthy women at low risk of complications. 
  • Hormones Driving Labor and Birth gives an overview of the normal physiology of labor and birth and explains why maternity care practices should support and facilitate normal physiology whenever possible.
  • Cascade of Intervention explains how interventions in pregnancy, labor, and birth can lead to more interventions, increasing the complexity, risk, and cost of care.
  • Evidence-Based Maternity Care explains how research can guide practice to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies.
  • Informed Decision Making offers information about how to make good choices by considering the best available research, your own preferences and values, and your caregivers' recommendations. The section also reviews your legal rights to informed consent and informed refusal.
  • Resources provides links to more information from Childbirth Connection and other sources.

Next >
Why Maternity Care Quality Matters

© 2016 Childbirth Connection. All rights reserved.

Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy and policy. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
Most recent page update: 11/2/2012