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As a Los Angeles newborn photographer, I am always curious about where my clients deliver their babies. More and more, my clients are telling me that they’ve delivered at on of LA’s birth centers.
Find a birth center in Los Angeles
Birth centers offer a birthing experience between home birth and hospital birth. At a birth center, midwives are usually the primary caregivers. Birthing centers provide a homey atmosphere and are perfect for women with low-risk pregnancies who would like to experience an unmedicated birth.
While many midwifery services in Los Angeles offer home births, birth centers are relatively scarce. For years, GraceFull, located near Cedars Sinai and Beverly Hills, Natural Birth Center and Women’s Wellness in Silverlake, and Del Mar Birth Center in Pasadena, have been the go-to freestanding* birthing centers in Los Angeles.
In the past couple of years, the landscape of Los Angeles birth centers has changed. Sadly, Del Mar Birth Center recently closed its doors. In 2020, a new birth center, Kindred Space LA, opened up in South LA. Kindred Space, LA’s only black-owned birth center, was founded with the mission of serving birthing people of color.
*A “freestanding birthing center” means an independent facility and not part of a hospital or hospital system.
What to ask when choosing a birth center
Finding the right birth center requires some research. Both GraceFull and Natural Birth Center offer prospective clients a complimentary tour and orientation. You’ll want to check to see if tours and info sessions are happening online or in person.
Regardless of the format, your information session is an excellent opportunity to ask all of your questions. Here are some to get you started.
Which types of birth do you offer?
This is an essential question, especially if you have your heart set on a specific type of birth (for example, a water birth).
Both GraceFull and Natural Birth Center offer home births, water-births (both in-home and in the center), and vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).
What are my options for pain management?
Birth centers do not offer epidurals but often have alternative forms of pain management.
GraceFull lists labor movements, Rebozo techniques, birth swings, and nitrous oxide.
Natural Birth Center lists hypnobirthing, hydrotherapy, breath work, labor movements, tens units, and nitrous oxide as options.
Who are your doctors, and what happens if there are complications with my delivery?
The midwives who provide care at birth centers typically have an OB/GYN on call in case of emergencies. You may want to meet these providers in case you are transferred to their care. It’s also important to know under what circumstances you might be transferred to the hospital and which hospital it is.
How do you monitor my baby during labor?
Continuous fetal monitoring is usually not routine at birthing centers. For example, Natural Birth Center specifies that practitioners monitor your baby’s heartbeat intermittently with a Doppler. Intermittent monitoring allows the birthing person more freedom of movement.
What other care do you provide?
Besides offering a more private and cozy place to deliver your baby, birth centers provide many services, including preconception counseling, prenatal care, childbirth education, lactation support, postpartum care, and even parent & baby groups.
Are you accredited?
When I started my research, my first stop was the Commission for the Accreditation of Birthing Centers. A CABC accreditation means that your birthing center has met strict care, training, and equipment standards.
GraceFull is currently accredited with the CABC. At the time of this blog post, neither Natural Birth Center or Kindred Space was listed on the CABC registry of accredited freestanding birth centers. Of course, accreditation is not the only way that a birthing center’s quality of care can be assessed.
Do you take insurance?
This is an important one! Delivering at a birth center is typically less expensive than delivering at a hospital. However, if your chosen birth center doesn’t accept your insurance or your insurance won’t cover birthing center deliveries, it may turn out to be a costlier option.
Both GraceFull and Natural Birth Center accept insurance. GraceFull is even in-network with many plans! You’ll need to speak with your birth center and insurance directly to determine if they are in or out of network and what will and won’t be covered.