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 first assess your labour over the phone; your first in-person assessment(s) usually happens at home. Sometimes, like if your labour seems to be progressing very quickly, your midwife will ask you to meet them at the birth centre for an in-person assessment. Regardless of where this first in-person assessment happens, you will be admitted to a birthing room once you are in active labour.

Before you go to the birth centre, your midwife will call ahead to let a Birth Centre Aide (BCA) know you are coming and confirm that there is a birthing room available. Find out what happens if the birth centre is full.  

BCAs  are essential frontline staff at the birth centre with many important responsibilities.

They:

  • 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 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.

Healthy, well birthing parents and babies go home to rest within four hours of the birth. This is the same time-frame that midwifery clients go home from the hospital post-birth and midwives 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 extra 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 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: