Birth Venues: Making a Choice
If you are pregnant, no doubt the question of exactly where this baby will be born has crossed your mind. This is a highly personal decision, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly – after all, your baby only gets to be born once! Just as there is no one right way to birth, there is no one choice that’s right for all women so do your homework to ensure that the birthplace you choose is the one that’s best for you and your baby.
Ultimately, this choice should come from both the brain and the heart. After educating herself on all available options, a woman is best off birthing in the environment she feels safest in.
The majority of babies born in North America are born in hospitals, which offer the highest technology available, pain medication, and round-the-clock nursing care. For a woman who is planning a Caesarean, a hospital is the only option; for mothers with certain risk factors, it is the safest choice.
Many women are drawn to the hospital because of the availability of epidural or narcotic anesthesia and because the hospital is likely to provide a neonatal unit in case the baby has trouble at birth. Also, many women enjoy having 24-hour nursing help available to them as they get to know their new baby.
Be sure to tour available hospitals well before your due date to get a feel for the facility’s policies and procedures. Also, since hospital staff rotates, it may be a good idea to hire a doula – a trained professional who provides continuous support to women during labor and delivery.
Consider a hospital birth if:
- You are comforted by technology and high-tech equipment.
- You have risk factors that would rule out an out-of-hospital birth.
- You want an epidural or other pain medication.
- You feel safest birthing in a medical facility.
Freestanding Birth Center:
Not to be confused with hospital birth centers, which are usually more homey versions of regular hospital rooms, a freestanding birth center is a completely separate facility, usually staffed and run by midwives. Freestanding birth centers make a great “middle ground” choice for women who are drawn to the advantages of homebirth but aren’t completely comfortable birthing in their own homes. Privacy, continuity of care, and compassionate support from the birth attendant are all hallmarks of the birth center experience. Freestanding birth centers are a safe environment for women having normal pregnancies.
Consider a freestanding birth center if:
- You want a drug-free birth with little to no intervention, but are not comfortable with the idea of a home birth
- You want a private, homelike environment to birth in with the advantages of homebirth (no routine separation of mother and infant, freedom to move around during labor and birth in the position most comfortable to you), but don’t want to prepare your home or purchase your own supplies.
- Your home is a considerable distance from a hospital, and you feel more comfortable or safer birthing near a medical facility.
Home birth may seem archaic, and indeed, in some ways it is – women have been having babies at home, usually with assistance from female attendants, relatives and friends, since the beginning of time! But studies show that home birth is also a satisfying choice in the 21st century, and for a woman having a low-risk pregnancy and attended by a trained midwife or doctor, it is as safe as or safer than a hospital birth.
When a woman births at home, her attendant stays with her throughout the course of labor, delivery, and in the immediate postpartum hours. The woman is free to move around as desired, make noise, eat, and drink, without unnecessary interventions or interruptions. The midwife (or sometimes, doctor) is also likely to provide comprehensive postpartum care, including special attention to breastfeeding.
Homebirth clients are usually considered active participants in decision-making, and having a home birth requires a willingness on the part of the pregnant couple to take greater responsibility for their care. If you plan a home birth, make research your attendants well, being sure to ask about philosophy, experience, training, and/or certifications.
Consider a home birth if:
- You want to be in control of your birth environment, who is present at your birth, and who your birth attendant(s) is/are.
- You believe in the natural process of birth and want your experience to be drug-free and as intervention-free as possible.
- You don’t want to be unnecessarily separated from your baby after birth
- You don’t want to go anywhere during labor or shortly after birth.
- You feel safest and most comfortable birthing in your own home.
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