What is the Safest Way to Give Birth in the U.S.?

The United States might not be the safest place to give birth. But couples expecting a baby in the U.S. often have to choose the safest and best options for them based on health, preferences, and cost.

While every birthing option comes with its own benefits and risks, most experts agree one method is safer than all the rest.

These are the typical choices available in the United States, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which one is considered the safest.

Traditional hospital births

Empty emergency room in a hospital

Empty emergency room in a hospital | Antonio_Diaz/Getty Images

You have several options when creating a birthing plan within a hospital setting. Most women choose a more traditional vaginal birth because it doesn’t involve surgery and recovery time is shorter. Others have no choice but to give birth by Cessarian or C-section to avoid complications and increase their risk of a safe and complication-free delivery.

There are risks that come with both options, though a vaginal birth is considered less risky. Giving birth vaginally, the mother risks tearing and lingering pain; a long or difficult labor can injure the baby as well. But a C-section is a major surgery and comes with associated risks such as blood loss and infection.

Giving birth in a hospital ensures you’ll be given the best and most accessible medical care in case of complications. It also tends to be the most expensive option. However, many women search for other options in an effort to gain more control over their birthing experiences.

Birthing centers

Many hospitals have birthing centers in a specific wing of the building or in a location nearby. But there are also birthing centers affiliated with hospital systems that operate on their own. Certified nurse-midwives usually oversee deliveries, and many locations are covered by health insurance.

These centers also offer initiatives like childbirth and parenting classes. So it’s possible to work with and get to know staff within a particular center throughout your pregnancy prior to delivery.

Home births

Pregnancy

Pregnancy | iStock/Getty Images

Less than 1% of women in the United States give birth at home. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a safe option for many expectant mothers. Many choose this option because they want a delivery without medical intervention in a more comfortable setting. It’s also cheaper than giving birth in a hospital setting.

Choosing a home birth does come with an increased risk of infant death and other complications. But if you have a low-risk pregnancy and you’re healthy, you’re not likely to experience problems just because you’re at home.

To ensure your and your baby’s safety, experts recommend only working with a certified nurse-midwife. These professionals are licensed and trained to provide the best possible care, especially if you’re giving birth at home.

Which option is the safest?

Experts recommend giving birth in a hospital to increase your chances of a safe and healthy delivery. If you do choose a birthing center that isn’t linked to a hospital, make sure you’re informed of your risks and your likelihood of transfer to a hospital during your delivery.

And while giving birth at home can absolutely be a safe and comfortable option for many women, do speak with your doctor to make sure you’re not experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. If your best option is to deliver where more immediate medical care is available, they’ll let you know.

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