A birth center birth can be a wonderful experience.
But, since "natural"
: birth has become more popular there are more and more birthcenters springing up which are, IMO, hospitals in disguise.
With our first birth, we planned to deliver in a birth center but we ended up not doing so. I had warning signs, but didn't recognize them as such, that the midwives were more medical than I would have hoped. In addition, they were affiliated with a local hospital and did not support my individual options, alternate medications (they said castor oil was the ONLY option to get my labor going and it wouldn't work before I *needed* to go to the hospital), and were NOT adequate support for me at the hospital (once there they just sat back and watched the medical group take over, never ONCE suggesting different tactics I found out later were available). That said, I know people who went there and had marvelous births--- but they also conformed to the strict parameters of labor I did not realize were actually there, no matter how they attested otherwise.
With our second birth, we were in an HMO. They would not cover a birth center birth with the midwives we liked (LM not CNM) because the HMO had a birth center of their own. It was housed within their specialty wing, though, attached to the hospital and *all* their births were there. Now, I thought it was better than a tradiditonal hospital because they had jacuzzis AND said that DD could come and sleep over even (they suggested it, we did not bring it up) but it was still a hospital. They did epidurals, c-sections, the whole works.
The birth center my midwives practiced out of was a three bedroom PALACE. I would have loved to give birth there with my first! They had queen/king sized beds, jacuzzis, showers for two, you could be there as long as you wanted (come in early labor) but not stay for more than 6ish hours after (they recommend you get home before the wearies set in, 90% of problems occur w/in the first six hours and if you are haivng problems 6+ hours later they encourage a hospital transfer, but I assume aren't anal about it). There were only drugs available for after the birth (if stitches were needed, or the placenta wasn't delivered/you were having bleeding issues OR for reviving the baby).
We went with a home birth, though, which was perfect.