What Happens at a Birth Centre Birth?

Arrival at the birth centre

Your midwife will tell you when to page or call once you are in labour. They will assess your labour over the phone or in person. Your first in-person assessment(s) usually happens at home, although the assessment may take place at the birth centre if your labour seems to be progressing quickly. Regardless of where your first in-person assessment happens, you will be admitted to a birthing room once you are in active labour.

Before you arrive at the birth centre, your midwife will have called ahead to let a Birth Centre Aide know you are coming and confirmed that there is a birthing room available. Find out what happens if the birth centre is full.  

Birth Centre Aides (BCAs) are important frontline staff at the birth centre and have many responsibilities.

Birth Centre Aides:

  • prepare the birthing room and fill up the tub for labour before you arrive
  • clean the birth rooms
  • prepare food for birthing families
  • access supplies for midwives
  • provide administrative support for midwives

Labour and birth

Once you are admitted to a birthing room, you will have access to all the amenities the birth centre has to offer, such as:   

  • large birthing tubs and showers
  • birthing balls and stools
  • suspended birth slings

These items help support labour progress by encouraging movement while providing stability.

You will also have access to safe, effective and low intervention pain relief options.

The medical equipment and medications available at the birth centre are similar to the equipment and medications that midwives bring to home births and to those available at hospitals that provide Level I care. You and your baby will be monitored throughout labour and birth at the birth centre to make sure there are no complications developing. A second midwife will arrive when you are close to giving birth to help care for you and your baby.

After the birth

After the birth, your midwives will monitor and assess you and your baby to make sure you are recovering well. They will perform a head-to-toe physical exam on your baby and help you with feeding.

If birthing parents and their babies are healthy and well, they generally go home to rest within four hours of birth. This is the same time frame within which midwifery clients go home from the hospital post-birth and midwives typically leave after a home birth.

Before you leave the birth centre, your midwife will talk to you about what to expect within the next 24 hours. They will also provide you with written instructions about when and how to contact them if you have any concerns. 

If you and/or your baby need closer observation or monitoring after the birth, your midwife will recommend moving to the hospital for additional support instead of going home. Depending on why you or your baby need closer monitoring, you may need to go to hospital by car or by ambulance. Find out what happens when things don’t go as planned.

A midwife is always available to you by phone at any time, day or night, if you have questions or concerns after giving birth. The day after the birth, your midwife will visit you at home (or in the hospital, if applicable) for your first follow-up visit.

Midwives provide all the early post-birth care you and your baby need in the comfort of your own home, including:

  • routine newborn screening tests
  • physical and mental health assessments
  • parenting support and teaching
  • feeding support
Hear three midwifery clients talk about their birth centre births: