Your top 5 questions about birth centres answered

Want to avoid a hospital birth, but afraid to have your baby at home? A birth centre might be the perfect middle ground. Here’s what you need to know about birth centres so you can make an informed choice. By Tammy Jacks


Soon after you find out you’re expecting a baby, one of your biggest priorities will be deciding how you want to give birth. The good news is, if you and your baby are healthy and your doctor hasn’t picked up any complications, in other words, you have a low-risk pregnancy, then you have the choice of whether to give birth at home, a birth centre or a hospital.

While you might not be entirely comfortable with a home birth, a birth centre offers all the benefits of a calm, natural and serene environment, but with medical assistance and trained professionals.

ALSO SEE: The facts about a home birth

What is a birth centre?

According to the American Association of Birth Centers, A typical birth centre is a healthcare facility that offers a wide variety of care and support before, during and after birth. Birth centres are separate from a hospital facility and are generally run by a team of midwives, nurses and doulas. Some also have gynaecologists on standby in case of emergencies. However, some birth centres are situated inside a hospital, but run as a separate entity.

Pros of a birth centre

The environment in a birth centre is more relaxed and less clinical than a hospital. However, you’re still safe, supported and in good hands – if you’re looking for a homely atmosphere, but with a professional team looking after you and your little one, a birth centre is ideal.

Family members and birth partners are also encouraged to offer support throughout labour, alongside the licensed midwife or nurse. Another bonus is that women in labour are allowed to move around freely and food and drinks are readily available.

Why should I choose one over a home birth?

In a recent report, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement claiming that birth centres and hospitals are the two safest places to give birth. Additionally, most birth centres, even those inside hospitals, are designed to look and feel like home and the staff are passionate about respecting your wishes and following your birth plan – unless complications arise.

Research carried out by the American Pregnancy Association concludes that home births are not safe in the following instances:

  • You’re diabetic
  • You have a history of pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia (a condition caused by high blood pressure)
  • You’ve experienced or are at-risk of preterm labour
  • Your partner and family members aren’t fully supportive of a home birth.

Will medical aid cover the birth at a birth centre?

This depends on the birth centre you choose. Some hospital plans do cover the cost of a doula or midwife at a birth centre or hospital.

Genesis Clinic in Johannesburg accepts and supports both private and medical aid clients as they’re affiliated with Life Healthcare. However, you’re responsible for finding out what your medical aid will cover at the birthing centre, including:

  • Prenatal and antenatal care
  • Room hire (semi-private or private)
  • Birth fees (At Genesis clinic, if you choose the In-House Birth Unit option you’ll pay around R3 650 for a midwife assisted birth, and should you need to have an emergency C-Section, you’ll be refunded this amount.)

Can I have a natural birth at a birth centre after a C-Section?

The short answer is yes, provided there are no complications with your second pregnancy and you’ve been given the all-clear by your doctor. Mom of one, Samantha Westlake is currently pregnant with her second baby. Although she had an emergency C-Section with her son, she’s planning on having a natural birth at a private maternity clinic in Johannesburg this time around, and she plans to have her midwife by her side.

ALSO SEE: The facts about vaginal birth after a C-section

“I’m going to have my baby at the Linkwood clinic, which is a semi-alternative maternity hospital in Johannesburg. This hospital is similar to a birth centre in the sense that it’s a homely environment and your chosen midwife is there to monitor the birth and assist in the postpartum period.

As soon as I go into labour, I’ll call my midwife and she’ll meet me at the hospital. I’m choosing to have a water birth without any medication, just breathing techniques, so her role will be to assist and monitor me throughout the labour process. She’ll ensure I’m eating and drinking properly throughout to keep my sugar levels stable and she’ll help me find positions that will work best for me.

I’ve also seen my midwife throughout the pregnancy. At each visit, she monitors me by measuring my tummy, checks the baby’s position and we discuss my overall diet and health. She’s helped me to deal with the emotional side too, not just the physical aspects of pregnancy and the upcoming birth.

My medical aid has covered these visits and the birth and hospital stay will also be covered. Should I need another emergency C-Section, the gynae will be called in, but my midwife will ensure that my baby latches immediately and that we get to have that essential skin-to-skin contact. I’ll see her for seven days after birth as she’ll help with everything from breastfeeding to bathing to how to change nappies.

Birth centres in SA:


Cape Town

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