How far would you drive to give birth?

April 30 2012 | offbeatbride
Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Photo by Marina of Red Heart Photo
Photo by Marina of Red Heart Photo
I would really love to have my baby at a birth center — but the closest one is about an hour away from my house. Both my husband and I work full-time and I'm hoping to work until the baby is born. For parents who have chosen to give birth somewhere relatively far away: is going to appointments an hour away reasonable? What about going into labor and then driving an hour?

I love the idea of a home birth but my husband isn't on board — he'd rather I was in a hospital with a midwife. He's not completely sold on the birth center, but he knows I am… it just comes down to the feasibility. How far have some of you driven to get the prenatal care that makes you feel the most at ease? — Alex

Did you travel father away than you thought you would to give birth where you wanted? How did you feel about doing so?

  1. Obviously every labor is totally different and there is no way to predict how long it's going to be. I had both of my sons in a hospital about 1/2 mile from my house and was SO thankful I made that choice. We were considering a birth center with my second son, but it was an hour away and he was due in the middle of winter, so we went with the hospital instead. I had a very fast labor in the middle of a horrendous snow storm and would have never made it to the birth center.
    When making your choice, remember to account for all possible scenarios. Visit more than one facility and midwife, and make the best choice for you. Good luck!

  2. We had planned on going to a birth center that was about fifty minutes away from our house, but I ended up having to be induced eighteen days after my due date had passed… at a hospital that was an hour away from our house. Honestly, the fifty-minute drive didn't bother me – it never even passed through my head that it might be a problem. I guess I assumed that I'd leave in enough time or the baby would come where/when she wanted to.

  3. Congrats on your pregnancy!

    I took a 35-minute ferry and a 20-minute drive to get to my appointments. For the birth, we ran to catch the last ferry of the night) and then drove 25-minutes to the birth center. (For Seattlites, we went from Bainbridge Island to Kirkland.)

    It was worth it to have the midwife that we trusted and to be close to the hospital, which made my hubby feel better about the birth center option.

    With your first baby, there is a good chance you will have plenty of time. 😉

  4. Well neither myself or my partner drive so we have to get 2 buses to get to our hospital for all of our appointments and for when I go into labour (may splash out on a taxi for that! :D) which normally takes around an hour…we haven't had any problems with this although we do not have a choice. Hope that helps and best of luck x x x

  5. We drove well over an hour to prenatal care appointments and to our delivery location with both children: a hospital, but one that I was much more comfortable with than the closer options. We both worked full time through the pregnancies and it still worked out fine. The drive out of town once a month felt like a special mini-vacation to us, as we took the day off each time & went on a date after our checkup. It did get harder as we got closer to birth & had to go more often, but it was well worth it. The drive during labor was relaxing to me, but it's a very individual thing depending on how your labor progresses & whether you're comfortable sitting in a car. We're also lucky to live in a place that the drive was a very scenic one. It helped keep visitors from overwhelming us, as well. Overall – it worked out great for us to make the trip, because in the end, I wanted to receive care & deliver where I was comfortable more than I wanted to be close to home.

  6. I was a slightly different situation. I lived in, had my dr & chosen birth location an hour away from where I worked. I worked until my due date and by the end I was really nervous that I would go into labor at work and have to get myself 30 + miles to the hospital. My friend chose a birth center an hour from their house with a midwife. We both made it to our chosen locations on time, but you may want to know where a closer to home back up location is just in case.

  7. My OB appointments were 70 minutes away and the hospital I delivered at was a three hour drive. We didn't have a choice because we lived in the middle of the desert and those were the closest options. It wasn't really a big deal. The appointments were inconvenient just because they ate into my work time, but it wasn't that bad. My labor was 13 hours, and the three hour drive to the hospital wasn't a big deal. (The three hour drive home was terrible, though. We had the baby and my mom in the back seat, so I had to sit upright in the front the whole drive and I had excessive swelling/tearing so it was not comfortable. I highly recommend bringing a pillow or inflatable donut thing to sit on for the ride home.)

  8. I'm in a small town without a great hospital. It was my first child, and I wanted to be over-prepared. The idea of giving birth in a little hospital with no neonatal unit, and an iffy on-call anesthesiologist made me nervous, so I opted for a hospital that I liked 2 hours away. The visits weren't so bad, as my ob-gyn made regular visits to do rounds at the local hospital.
    When the big night came, I called the hospital and a nurse told me to stay put for a while, it was my first child so this would take a while. Luckily, I did not take her advice, and I packed up immediately to start the 2 hour trek. The drive wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. We took a route that passed by another hospital and hour away, just in case I couldn't wait. I ended up zoning out with my contractions through the drive. We have heated seats in the car, which felt like heaven, as I was in back labor.
    When we finally arrived, there wasn't much time to settle in. I gave birth within an hour and a half.
    I'm happy the way it turned out. Like I said, the drive wasn't that bad (but avoid bumps in the road!). But I was lucky, had I stayed at home a while longer I would've had my baby in a car! If I have a second, I think it would take some stress off if I chose to stay closer to home. That being said, noone could have convinced me to do things any other way than how I did them. And all was fine!

  9. I went to a birth center an hour away. I started labor at 11 pm and didn't leave for the center until 7 am. I was 4 cm by then, and very ready to get in a birth pool, but it wasn't too bad. We crossed a mountain pass, too, so it was a big drive, but totally possible for me. I think it really depends on who you are. Good luck!

  10. I went to a birth center an hour away. I started labor at 11 pm and didn't leave for the center until 7 am. I was 4 cm by then, and very ready to get in a birth pool, but it wasn't too bad. We crossed a mountain pass, too, so it was a big drive, but totally possible for me. I think it really depends on who you are. Good luck!

  11. TONS of people near where I grew up drive an hour or two to deliver. The nearest hospital is half an hour away, but a lot of people simply don't like that hospital, so they choose to drive further. Some drive themselves, some have others do the driving. I think the key, with any birth, is to bear in mind that your plans may have to change.
    And in terms of the appointments, I honestly just think it's a mix of how often you need to go to appointments, how much time off you can take and whether it's worthwhile for you. I know some people choose to do some appointments at closer locations, and that might be an option for you.

  12. I drove 45 minutes to the only midwives facility in the area. It did get old after a while, as we had to go twice a week for the last 8 weeks, but it was ok. We were also worried about going into labor in the middle of rush hour, or something, but we ended up with a scheduled c-section due to being breach. I can't tell you if that part was crummy. I had almost 950 miles to claim on the medical section of our taxes.

  13. Up until the last few months, when I had to switch midwives, I was driving an hour and a half for my prenatal appointments. It wasn't awesome, but it was doable. And honestly, the bigger practice I go to now is always running late so the amount of time I spend on the appointments is about the same.

    We considered a hospital that was an hour away without traffic, two with. Statistically speaking if you're a first time mom you probably have plenty of time to get there – but of course there are always exceptions.

    Is there anything worth seeing / doing near the birth center? We considered picking a hotel near the hospital and heading there at the first sign of labor, and passing the pre-labor stage close by so I wouldn't have to sit through an hour long car ride in active labor.

  14. For my second baby, we were fine with the hospital in our city – they had just renovated their maternity ward, I'd heard really good things, and I wasn't picky – my first child had been a hospital birth with an OB and worked out great. The problem was, we ended up driving an hour and a half to my parents place for Thanksgiving 2 and a half weeks before #2 was due. We didn't give it a second thought; I had only been 6 days early with my first and hadn't had any signs of beginning labour. My son must have really liked turkey though, because I ended up in a completely different hospital that night, with on-call doctors who didn't know who I was (which was further complicated by the fact that my son had abdominal cysts that were discovered on ultrasound and had to be checked out pretty thoroughly immediately after birth). It all ended up being fine, though – the hospital got a hold of my medical records, they knew what complications we had and were ready to deal with them, and he ended up being born in the same hospital I had been born in. Point is, I guess, that even the best-laid plans can be thrown out the window by non-predictable babies 🙂 I'd check out closer hospitals if you can, because you may wind up there without much of a choice.

  15. My first birth was a ver scary c-section. I was beyond grateful when I looked into her eyes and saw that she was ALIVE. During labor her vital signs were sketchy…so the idea of driving an hour to a birthing center SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME. Sure, most birthing experiences aren't like mine, but I could never understand why some women risk anything when it comes to giving birth. *Disclaimer: I'm a medical professional and tend to be on the paranoid side.

    • I think you have to remember that nothing is truly risk-free, it's all about choosing the aspects of risk you're comfortable with. And there's no right or wrong answer.

      Unfortunately, more doctors doesn't always mean better care – there are wonderful and terrible healthcare providers at all ends of the spectrum. I'm assuming that since the person is considering somewhere an hour away, she feels there's something to risk at the hospital closer to her.

      It's also important not to discount emotional suffering when considering risk. It may sound frivolous, but if a woman feels ignored, bullied, or scared of the environment she's in it's going to have a negative impact on her birthing. In some cases, the emotional scars last far longer than the physical ones.

      If a mother feels the closer location is at odds with her emotional well-being, the risk of an hour-long car ride in what's likely to be a multi-hour process may be reasonable.

    • I think you have to look at the potential risks from all sides. If her local hospital has high intervention and c-section rates, then that is a risk in itself just as driving to a birthing centre would be.

      I originally wanted a home birth. But when I was induced due to high blood pressure, I had a hospital birth with an OB (who basically administered meds and caught the baby) but greatly assisted by my midwife. I feel like I got a lot of scare tactics (if you don't take these drugs now you may end up needing a c-section) and pressure to have drugs, stay longer than I wanted to afterwards etc. I still want a home birth for my next one.

      While my son is great, I took the risk of a hospital and lost the birth I wanted (I wasn't allowed to eat or drink, couldn't get out of bed, was pressured into drugs, my husband had to leave and I had to do the first night alone, the cord wasn't allowed to pulse,etc).

      If I were the original poster, I would pre-register at the hospital in case an emergency came up and I couldn't make it to the birthing centre- but I'd plan on going to the centre and getting the birth I wanted.

      • Yes. It seems best to me that if there's an emergency, having a hospital backup is always the way to go. But that said, my best friend had open heart surgery at 19, so when she unexpectedly got pregnant, her cardiologist was sure they would have to terminate. Now she's doing so well, they're considering letting her birth without pain medication at all. Even though she can't give birth at a birthing center, she is an hour away from the hospital with a NICU anyway by virtue of Idaho being a hugely rural state, so yes. Risks are inherent.

  16. I really wanted to birth at a birth center, but was also worried about the commute, since it was an hour away. I settled for a local hospital with an absolutely wonderful natural-birth encouraging doctor, because our 20 minute proximity put me at ease.

    Then, at 30 weeks my husband was transfered and we ended up having to move an hour away anyways. At that point I had a doula set up, a birth plan in place, and it was just too much of a hassle to switch so I'm now 36 weeks and make the 1 hour drive to my prenatal appointments. So far it hasn't been too bad. The worst part is not the drive itself, it's the cost/useage of gas since my appointments have increased to every week.

    With labor, my doula has assured me that it's pretty unlikely I'll have a marathon baby. But either way, there is another hospital right in the middle of the commute just in case, as well as 2 other good hospitals closer to us, just in case there's no time to get out to my OB's hospital.

    Worst case scenario, our plan is to head out there a bit earlier and we can go get some food and/or stay at my doula's house if need be.

  17. I had my last two kids at a birthing center over 45 minutes away from my house. It was the only hospital that had water birthing and midwives. With my daughter, my water broke and I immediately went to the hospital. I didn't want to wait until I was farther along in labor and risk birthing her elsewhere. She was born 2.5 hours after my water broke. She was so quick I didn't get my waterbirth, but I was so glad I want there. They're a lovely facility and I schlep out there for my ob/gyn appointments as well as my kids' pediatric appointments (though if there's an emergency with the kids, I'll go to a local hospital for that). You need to have the best experience possible, and sometimes making a bit of a trip is worth it. Perhaps have your own copy of your file/chart on hand in case labor is so quick you need to go somewhere closer. 🙂

  18. I am having a home birth, but my partner and I drive 40 minutes each way for prenatal appointments since they are done in our midwife's home. It's definitely a pain and I am still in the "going once a month" phase. It's totally worth it to me to get a birth I want, but it's still annoying. Luckily, my partner does the driving and I get to read on my ipad or something. But still, annoying. However, if it means getting the birth I want, then I am totally on game.

    You have to do what feels right to you. Plus, I agree that most first labors take a while so you should have time to get there. If you love the birth center, DO IT!

  19. As a medical professional, I would second the advice to have a photocopy of your chart just in case. Have a copy of your dating, your labs, your ultrasounds, your blood pressures, etc. It will make things go smoother should you end up somewhere else. It will lower the new OB's blood pressure to see evidence that you and your baby are healthy and normal and not a disaster waiting to happen. You can then get to the business of giving birth without having to recount exactly how you decided on your due date or if you have group B strep.

  20. I had my baby girl at a birth center that was an hour away. In the middle of a blizzard (we got 18" of snow that weekend) and it took my husband and I 2 hours to get there in the middle of it. We drove there for our birth classes and our apts. Not a big deal for us since we live in a rural area and we normally drive that far just go to any major shopping areas. I say go for it, and keep blankets in the car if you deliver before you get there.

  21. Ooh, yeah. I second the blankets and pillows in the car. Even though you may not get stuck in a snow storm (yikes!!) they will add to your comfort level

  22. I can't offer much advice, living in a city and only about 15 minutes away from my preferred location. But by coincidence, I've heard several birth stories recently in which women had to drive long distances during labor and it sounds like it's a VERY stressful experience, especially for a first child or for a labor that moves quickly.

    But it's important to do what feels best for you. If this is where you absolutely want to give birth, then go for it! Just be sure to have a close-to-home back up plan in case labor goes really quickly and be prepared for an uncomfortable ride. Hopefully, you won't have to worry and it'll all go exactly how you hoped and planned. Lots of luck!

  23. I live in a remote mountain town in Wyoming. The nearest medical facility of any sort is a 2-hour drive (over a mountain pass). It is what it is…little Critter was 3 weeks overdue, so I was making the haul over the pass quite frequently in the end…not terribly pleasurable, but certainly beats a city commute. I will definitely always cherish and appreciate the time with Daddio on both the final drive over to the hospital, and the day we drove home.

  24. Is the birth center part of or attached to a hospital? If not, food for thought…..a birth center birth IS a homebirth, just in somebody else's "home." Unless it's directly attached to a hospital it offers no more advantage than a homebirth in an emergency and if you live within 30 minutes of a hospital, it offers no advantage at all. I would bring that up with my husband (although it might turn him off to the birth center rather than turn him on to homebirth depending on how he thinks).

    I don't think that driving an hour for prenatals is unreasonable though it does get a bit exhausting once you get to the point of weekly visits. Driving for an hour while in labor though? Not something that sounds at all appealing to me especially if your labors are quick. I HAVE to be able to move around during labor or else I tense up and start to panic so being in a car definitely wouldn't be my ideal.

  25. If you live in my hometown your choices are either an hour and and a half-ish drive to the nearest hospital with a maternity ward, or homebirth.

  26. Haha…I am sitting here laughing, because on my last birth (#3), we had to drive about 10 minutes to the hospital/birth center, and I hated EVERY. MINUTE. More power to ya, girl, if you decide to go that far to get the birth you want!

  27. I was lucky and had midwives at my house until later into my labour. The 5 minute car ride to the hospital was the worst part for me!

  28. Sounds like just another normal day for us Alaskan mama's! Especially those who live in the Bush and have to be flown to the hospital when they are ready to have the baby.
    I'd say an hour is no big deal, you'd just have to adjust schedules so you can make the appointments, and watch the early labor signs closer so you can have enough driving time to get there.

  29. I know Offbeat Mama did a story once about a couple who had to travel for their home birth because it's illegal in their home state of Alabama. I know it's also illegal in South Dakota where my midwife is from, she strictly attends home births for women across four states, and I know she keeps a house across the border in Minnesota for her moms from SD. The laws in Nebraska, where I live, are spotty; you can have a home birth but it's illegal to have a licensed medical professional present. My concern was HER travel time, not mine since I'd be staying home! She had to drive from SD to NE and that's only if she wasn't visiting a mother clear out in central NE or Minnesota. But it was my third pregnancy and my labors last at least six hours, plus he was born in September so we still had great weather. Even though I called her all the way out for a false alarm once, everything worked out amazingly well. I'm now pregnant again and hoping to have the same experience, but am a little concerned to be due at the end of November/beginning of December. There's also finally a birth center here that opened up shortly after my last birth and I've considered it, just so I can experience every type of birth (I've had a medicated vaginal delivery in a hospital and a C-section in addition to a home birth), but it's a good half hour to 45 minutes from where we live and I adored my midwife and don't think I could beat the home birth experience!

  30. I drove 45 minutes to my birth center for every appointment (starting at 8 weeks and going to 41+4) as well as 45 minutes during labor (although it may have taken only 35 or 40 with the hubs speeding the whole way.) I loved my midwives and every minute of every drive was worth my time.
    The added "thrill" for us was the strong possibility of "beach traffic" – we live on a major highway, and the only route to and from the midwives is over a 3 lane bridge on the way home from the beach. Sunday nights, it can take hours to go a handful of miles. We had serious contingency plans in place with friends who lived closer to "the bridge."
    Another thing to keep in mind – should you need to transfer (it does happen, even with the best laid plans) – how long of a drive is it to the hospital? Those 15 minutes can be torture after many hours in labor.

  31. my birth center was 20 minutes away with zero traffic, up to 45 mins with heavy city traffic. my labor (this is my first child) was very fast and the drive to the birth center was the worst part of it for me – i've already decided next time, i'm having a home birth, just to avoid having to drive! granted, we waited a little longer than we should have to leave home, and i was already pushing (/trying not to push!!!!!!!) by the time we were going to the car, but i was soooooo convinced i was going to deliver in the car. luckily, we got there in time, but there was a mad scramble once we arrived to get everything set up because i was fully dilated and that baby was on his way out already. if it had not been 5:00am and there had been traffic, i don't know if we would have made it.

    but then, fast labors run in my family, so maybe if there's no reason to suspect you will have a super speedy labor, and you aren't in denial the whole time like i was about how far along you are, an hour might not be so bad 🙂

  32. My husband and I have been going an hour and a half away for my pregnancy checkups, and the hospital that my DR wants me to go to is also near there. It's an hour away on a GOOD day, on a BAD day it can take more than two hours!

  33. Where I live, I am required by the law to evacuate to the nearest big town (about 5 hours drive) aprox 6 weeks before my due date.
    I can have all the checkups and scans done either here or another small town an hour away (for ultra sounds).
    Thanks Mr government, thats a great idea because I can totally afford 6 weeks of accomodation before I have a baby. I will be staying with friends an hour or more away from the hospital. My poor partner will have to make the 5 hour drive in ahurry when he gets 'the call' as we cant afford for him to take 6 weeks off work as well.

  34. I live an hour away from the hospital where I'd chosen to give birth. The appointments weren't bad; went I went into second-stage labour in the morning, we had more than enough time to get to the hospital, get checked in and get settled.

    The last part of the car ride was a nightmare and being trapped in a car when my body was telling me to walk around was a little frightening — that really made some primal responses come to the fore! — but once we got to the hospital things evened out.

  35. My birth center is about 40 minutes from our home. It was close to work, so very convenient for appointments. Getting there in time for birth isn't likely to be an issue, and your midwives will help you time it out.

    I did most of my labor and was starting transition in the car. I had been coping by standing and swaying through contractions. Sitting in the car was so painful that we actually turned around to go back and get my mom. She rubbed my back the whole way. I highly recommend having a support person and a driver available, just in case.

    Also, my husband was not initially on board with the birth center, but really changed his tune after our childbirth class there. And the birth was wonderful, so he's totally sold now.

  36. My birth story is shared here on Offbeat Mama (Oregon water birth); we drove four hours each way to a city over the mountains to have consistent care with the same midwives. It was originally a planned three hours but we moved when I was seven months and an extra hour didn't seem to be a big deal (we are used to driving).

    Things we took into consideration: I read my family's baby books for labor history (mostly longer labors, including my own birth) and spoke with other women in our family who did natural birth (confirmed that most were longer labors). We planned a route where we would pass a hospital about every hour or so, just in case. We talked extensively with our midwives about being honest with us medically and confidently, not trying to make us "happy" with our 'birth plans.' I had a textbook perfect pregnancy with no medical issues. I did a lot of meditating and body awareness practice so I could tell when Braxton Hicks became real labor (worked very well for me, I was able to feel early labor and we left with plenty of time after conferring with midwives).

    Later on in pregnancy you will want to stay overnight if its anything more than an hour drive, it is just too difficult and taxing on your body to be in the car that long. If you DO take on this plan to do driving, start prenatal yoga now if you haven't already and do research on proper body posture for pregnant women in vehicles. My son became posterior facing during labor, and I have always felt that it was because I was a) out of shape physically (as in didn't do stretching and yoga every day even though I'm healthy) and b) the car ride and staying in one position too long.

    We never intended to use the local hospital because of all the horror stories. Towards the due date, the midwives gave us the birth kit to carry in our car and we had books showing visually what my husband needed to do if an emergency delivery without help was necessary. Blankets, food, gallons of water, extra clothes for everyone, carseat, and a general first aid kit too. Honestly the drive over was a piece of cake, the drive home was hardest, I had a second degree tear and we were stopping every half hour for me to walk/rest or to feed and change our meconium-exploding son! It didn't help that my 33 hour total labor exhausted both my husband and me, but we did it. Next child we will plan on driving to a closer facility two hours away or homebirth.

  37. Another one living in a small town here. We have a local hospital but they don't do L&D. I am going the midwife in a hospital route that is about an hour and a half away. The mountain pass can make it a little tricky but hopefully we'll miss the early storms.
    So far I haven't minded driving down for appointments but I'm also still very early. There are closer hospitals an hour away with no passes but it's definitely worth it to me to drive to someone I trust.

  38. I live in Alaska and don't care for the main birthing options in Anchorage. We found a great birthing center ~45 miles from here. We worked with some great midwives and they agreed that the one hour drive shouldn't be a problem for the first child (after that, we probably should consider closer options). The birth went smoothly- feeling mild contractions at midnight, leaving around 3am to drive to the center, having a baby at 6am and home by noon. After that experience, my husband has agreed that he'd be open to a home birth for any future children we may have.

  39. I would love to go to the facility of my choice which is over an hour away. But….I live in Idaho, and my baby is due in the middle of winter. There's a lot of risk of ice and snow, so I'm shelving that plan, just for road safety. An unassisted home birth is still on the table. I am not bonding with the midwives at the hospital and it's looking like a better option than winter driving.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.