Abstract Background Maternal deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa are largely preventable with health facility delivery assisted by skilled birth attendants. Examining associations of birth location preferences on pregnant women’s experiences is important to understanding delays in care seeking in the event of complications. We explored the influence of birth location preference on women’s pregnancy, labor and birth outcomes. Methods A qualitative study conducted in rural Ghana consisted of birth narratives of mothers (n = 20) who experienced pregnancy/labor complications, and fathers (n = 18) whose partners experienced such complications in their last pregnancy. All but two women in our sample delivered in a health facility due to complications. We developed narrative summaries of each interview and iteratively coded the interviews. We then analyzed the data through coding summaries and developed analytic matrices from coded transcripts. Results Birth delivery location preferences were split for mothers (home delivery–9; facility delivery–11), and fathers (home delivery–7; facility delivery–11). We identified two patterns of preferences and birth outcomes: 1) preference for homebirth that resulted in delayed care seeking and was likely associated with several cases of stillbirths and postpartum morbidities; 2) Preference for health facility birth that resulted in early care seeking, and possibly enabled women to avoid adverse effects of birth complications. Conclusion Safe pregnancy and childbirth interventions should be tailored to the birth location preferences of mothers and fathers, and should include education on the development of birth preparedness plans to access timely delivery related care. Improving access to and the quality of care at health facilities will also be crucial to facilitating use of facility-based delivery care in rural Ghana.