Just as a mother has a choice who will deliver the baby, she also has some choice of where to deliver her baby. As in choosing a doctor or midwife, choosing the delivery site is a matter of personal style and obstetrical philosophy. One of the most important aspects of this decision is the degree of intervention inherent in the four most common birth settings: home, free-standing alternative birth center, alternative birth center within a hospital, and hospital delivery room.
By far the most common delivery site in the United States is the hospital delivery room. The overwhelming majority of doctors who practice at hospitals or medical centers believe that a hospital is the safest place for childbirth because of its hospital safety and technical support system. At the same time, home birth has retained its popularity after dropping to very low levels in the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Options other than the hospital delivery room and the home have arisen largely in an attempt to bridge the gap between the two extremes. The development of hospital and non hospital related birth centers is attributable to several cultural factors. As prepared childbirth became popular in the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s, mother came to view birth as a natural event in which they could actively participate rather than an illness that required medical procedures. The increasing adoption of prepared childbirth by obstetricians also made women aware of the influence that consumer pressure could have on the medical profession. The women’s movement lent further support to the idea of women being responsible for their own bodies and taking control of their own lives. Finally, the rise in popularity of holistic medicine in the 1970’s emphasized health and hospital safety, rather than illness, as a reference point and made people aware of the negative effect sometimes wrought by medical intervention and drugs, as opposed to more natural remedies.