Frequently Asked Questions

What is a birth center?

A birth center is a free-standing healthcare and wellness facility that provides family-centered women’s health, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn services in a safe, home-like setting. Birth centers are an important part of the landscape of normal, natural birth and provide an important alternative healthcare option to childbearing women and families.

What does “freestanding” mean?

“Freestanding” means we are not affiliated or attached to any specific hospital and provide care to clients independently from hospital based practices. The San Francisco Birth Center is, however, integrated into the overall health care community to offer comprehensive and complete care. The free-standing nature of the facility allows the services to be midwife-led and rooted in holistic philosophy while simultaneously retaining evidenced-based collaboration and access to the full spectrum of healthcare resources.

What is a midwife?

Midwives are experts in women’s health and low risk, normal childbirth. Our training includes well-woman care, obstetrics, and newborn care thru one month of life. Midwives utilize personalized patient-centered care to optimize birth outcomes. The  Midwives at San Francisco Birth Center are a combination of UCSF trained Certified Nurse Midwives and Licensed Midwives trained through an apprenticeship program. We value the different perspectives and expertise from each training background and find that they enrich and broaden our practice.

Do you accept insurance?

We accept insurance as an out-of-network facility. Payment is required during your pregnancy. If you have a PPO, our billing service will pursue reimbursement for you from your insurance company. See more about billing here.  Reimbursement depends on the coverage of your particular plan. Additionally, we are working hard to develop contracts with insurance providers in hopes of offering in-network rates as soon as possible. We are unable to accept MediCal or other HMO’s at this time, however we offer discounts for those with non-billable insurance.

Do you offer financial assistance?

If finances are a challenge, we will connect you with the Friends of the San Francisco Birth Center.

Can I see the birth center and see the staff before deciding?

Yes! Please come to one of our Orientation sessions that happen twice a month. You will have the opportunity to meet our midwives, tour the birth center, hear about our services, ask questions, and learn more about whether the birth center is the right choice for your family.

What does the research say about the safety of birth centers?

Giving birth is a natural process. Despite what is depicted in the media, most women are able to give birth safely and normally. Of course, there are some risks regardless of where a woman is giving birth. There are many large, well-designed studies that have examined the question of safety of out-of-hospital birth. The results are conclusive. When they compare women without risk-factors, out-of-hospital birth attended by a skilled provider and hospital birth of similar groups have equivalent safety outcomes. However, out-of-hospital birth utilizes hands-on midwifery care rather than medical intervention to provide safe outcomes. If risk factors develop during your pregnancy or birth that put you or your baby at higher risk, we will let you know and refer you to appropriate care.

What do you have to help with labor pain?

Midwives are experts in supporting women through natural childbirth and provide numerous methods to help with coping. These methods include but are not limited to positioning, massage, counter-pressure, herbs, hydrotherapy, and strong encouragement. As an out-of-hospital facility, we do not offer intravenous pain medication or epidurals. We do offer inhaled Nitrous Oxide which some people find very helpful.

What if there is an emergency?

Midwives are trained to diligently watch for early warning signs of developing complications throughout pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum period. You and your baby will be monitored closely for these early signs of complication, and your midwife will facilitate transfer to the closest appropriate hospital if they should arise.

Do I need a doctor in addition to my midwife?

Some women choose to establish care with a hospital-based practice (midwife or MD) in addition to their care at SF Birth Center. This additional care usually includes one or two visits to create a medical record with a provider of your choice and can ease transfer into the hospital system, should it become necessary.

Do you do water birth?

Yes. We have beautiful birth tubs available for soaking during labor and birth. Water is particularly beneficial in labor for reducing pain and enhancing relaxation and mobility.

Can anyone have her baby at the birth center?

As midwives, we care for healthy women having low risk pregnancies. We work hard to promote healthy pregnancy. However, sometimes a hospital is the safest place for more complicated pregnancies and birth. The definition of low risk versus high risk varies depending on the context of the conversation. In general, if you are a relatively healthy person without serious chronic conditions and have a single baby, you are most likely eligible for birth center care. How you conceived and your age do not automatically make you high risk.  It’s a complex question and if you are unsure, we would be happy to discuss this with you at a free initial consult.

Do you offer Nitrous?

Yes, we offer inhaled Nitrous Oxide for pain relief.

Do you offer ultrasounds?

At SFBC, we have an ultrasound machine available to perform basic bedside ultrasound including confirmation and dating of pregnancy and position check. We refer out for formal scans such as nuchal translucency and anatomy scans.

2300 Sutter St. Suite 301

San Francisco, CA 94115