Childbirth is still the most common reason for women’s first hospitalizations, so hospitals have to make sure their labor and delivery departments meet expectant mothers' evolving needs and preferences.

Women want options — from having a midwife or doula on hand during delivery to having newborns room in with them instead of going to the nursery, says Madhavi Kasinadhuni, senior consultant for research and insights at the Advisory Board Co.

Bon Secours Richmond (Va.) Health System’s three birthing centers have stayed on top of the latest trends. Women have access to certified nurse midwives, and labor-delivery nurses are cross-trained as doulas, says Julie Reagan, administrative director of women’s services. The birthing centers, located at the system’s Memorial Regional, St. Francis and St. Mary’s locations, have policies to support breast-feeding and offer women the option to have their babies stay in the mothers’ rooms.

In March 2014, St. Mary’s was the first hospital in Virginia to offer nitrous oxide to birthing women as a low-intervention tool for pain management during labor. The system expanded the nitrous oxide option to its St. Francis and Memorial Regional locations in December 2015.

The centers have maternal-fetal medicine programs, and the system offers a perinatal transport service for women who have a complication that would be treated better at another Bon Secours hospital.

The birthing centers’ neonatal intensive care units have cameras with secure internet connections so parents can see their babies 24/7 from their own home or workplace.

“We really focus on having a very wide spectrum of services,” Reagan says.