This randomized, controlled trial compared women's satisfaction with care at an in-hospital birth center with standard obstetric care in Stockholm. Subjects were 1230 women with an expected date of birth between October 1989 and February 1992, who expressed interest in birth center care, and who were medically low risk. The intervention was the random allocation of maternity care at the birth center or standard obstetric care. Birth center women expressed greater satisfaction with antenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum care, especially psychological aspects of care. Of these women, 63 percent thought that the antenatal care had raised their self-esteem, versus 18 percent of the control group. Eighty-nine percent of the experimental group would prefer birth center care for any future birth, and 46 percent of the control group would prefer standard care. Birth center care successfully meets the needs of women who are interested in natural childbirth and active involvement in their own care, and are concerned about the psychological aspects of birth.