What would you say if I told you “You don’t have to give birth lying on your back in a hospital”? What would you say if I told you “You don’t have to give birth in a hospital at all”?
There are more ways than one to give birth, and it’s totally up to you (unless there are emergency situations, in which case, it’s best to give birth safely). It can be helpful to be aware of these different types when writing your birth plan, and it can be especially helpful to know the benefits and risks of each.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with this common birth scenario. Most women are able to labor fairly comfortably, feel safe having hospital staff around, and have several resources at their disposal (such as pain management techniques, room service, round-the-clock help, etc.). Most women tend to feel at ease knowing that their are experts near them at all times in a setting that can accommodate emergency situations, such as an emergency C-Section. Hospital settings also provide immediate pediatric attention, should something occur with baby directly after birth.
However, some women tend to feel less at ease giving birth in a hospital. We may not always realize it, but a common association with hospitals is illness, and this association can cause tension, fear, and sometimes anxiety for women and their partners. While hospital staff are able to quickly react to medical emergencies, sometimes these reactions are not necessary, and can result in more medical intervention than needed.
Speaking of medical interventions, giving birth at a hospital means that women will typically get less rest than they need after giving birth. Nurses will be checking blood pressure through the night, and these check ups can cause disruptions in mother’s, father’s, and baby’s rest. During the stay at the hospital after baby is born also means there is a higher chance of separation for mother and baby. Having a nursery down the hall, whisking baby away to do APGAR scoring, and (typically) not allowing co-sleeping are all ways that can easily prevent baby from necessary interaction and spending those precious first hours with mom and partner.
With the right people around (should you choose to have other people around at all), a home birth is the perfect choice for some women. Mom and partner are able to labor naturally, without medical interventions, and so are able to feel more comfortable in their birth experience. They are also able to set up an area just for giving birth, so their environment is totally theirs. This does mean, however, that mother and partner are to assume much more medical responsibility (i.e. responsibility for their own health) through their birth experience.
With the qualified attendants, typically a midwife and sometimes an additional doula, women and their babies are actually at a lower risk for infection. There is also a lower risk for C-Sections or other medical interventions such as episiotomy or epidural. Even though these procedures are much lower risk, should these situations become necessary, access to a hospital is vital.
Another benefit to home birth is the close proximity mom has with people supporting her through birth. Starting with labor, mom has her caregivers come to her, rather than she waiting to go to them. The birth experience is truly centered around mom and baby, and promotes stronger and longer bonding time between mom, partner, and baby. Mom’s partner is also typically much more involved in the birth, creating a more positive birth experience for both parents; in hospitals, partners can sometimes feel more like an outsider, and may not be as involved.
And, let’s not forget the added bonuses of being able to eat and drink, change positions, make all the noise we want to, shower or take a bath, or walk around whenever we please.
Birth centers are like combinations of a home birth and hospital, with a few exceptions. Providing an environment exclusively for pregnant and laboring women, birth centers are a bit smaller than hospitals, and therefore women and their partners can typically meet all care providers before giving birth. Birth centers are also ideal for couples who don’t want a hospital birth, but are also not comfortable with a home birth. However, even though the rates are lower, birth centers do not provide the necessary needs for C-Section (if emergencies arise) or pediatricians following birth. Mother and partner are encouraged to take responsibility for their health needs, which can be viewed as either a benefit or a risk, depending on the couple.
Much like a home birth environment, birth centers provide the room and encourage parents to let labor and birth occur naturally, without medical intervention. However, during labor and birth, should an emergency occur and mom needs to be transported to a hospital, it is possible that this is done during labor, creating a very unpleasant experience. Once baby is born, and mom is on the mend, discharge is typically within 24 hours, rather than a few days, which, again, can be viewed as an upside or a downside depending on the couple.
Choosing Where to Birth
Choosing where you want to give birth might seem like a no-brainer, but it is an important decision to make, and one to discuss with both your partner and your care provider. Where you choose to birth can greatly alter your birth plan and postpartum plans, as each pose benefits and risks to both mother and baby. Be sure to review ALL of your options (even the ones not listed here!) before making concrete decisions, and include them in your birth plan. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your partner, and even your care provider, where you choose to give birth.
Where did you give birth? Do you think it impacted your birth experience?