A comparison of labour and birth experiences of women delivering in a birthing centre and at home in the Netherlands

Midwifery. 2006 Dec;22(4):339-47. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2005.12.004. Epub 2006 Apr 27.


Objective: to compare the labour and birth experiences of women who delivered at home without complications with the experiences of women who delivered in a birth centre without complications.

Design: a descriptive study using postal questionnaires at 1-6 months after birth of a consecutive sample of postpartum women.

Setting: women were recruited from one birth centre and three midwifery practices in an urban area of the Netherlands between September and December 2003.

Participants: 193 women; 129 delivered at home and 64 delivered in the birth centre.

Findings: the home-birth group perceived less pain (mean score home birth 6.291, birth-centre birth 6.977), desired less pain-relieving medication (home birth 7.9%, birth-centre birth 21.9%), believed they knew their midwife better (home birth 36%, birth-centre birth 10% 'knew her well'), and rated their birth setting 'higher' than the birth-centre group (mean score home birth 4.70, birth-centre birth 4.01). Furthermore, the birth-centre group emphasised safety, having medical help available, and convenience, whereas the home-birth group placed more importance on the home being trustworthy and dependable, having their own place and belongings, and feeling comfortable and relaxed.

Key conclusions: having an understanding of a woman's labour and delivery experience allows health-care providers to continue to improve the quality of maternity care. The environment can have a positive effect on a woman's birth experience; recommendations have been proposed that can be applied to all pregnant and labouring women.

Implications for practice: identification and understanding of the factors in the environment that make the labour and birth experience more positive should be incorporated into the education and preparation for an upcoming birth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birthing Centers*
  • Female
  • Home Childbirth / nursing*
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric / psychology
  • Midwifery / organization & administration*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Netherlands
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires