Birthplace: hospital, birth centre or home?
The vast majority of births take place in hospitals. Women who have no midwives or birth centres near their homes give birth in hospitals. So do women who want the security of knowing that help is at hand in case of an emergency and those who want the option of having pain medication such as epidurals.
If you decide to have a hospital birth, you can still plan a natural birth. Lots of hospitals have adopted more relaxed, homelike furnishings for their delivery rooms, and many hire midwives to work alongside the obstetricians. To ensure that things go as smoothly as possible, you and your partner should discuss your ideal birth experience with your healthcare provider before you go into labour. That will allow your partner to be the best advocate for your choices, if necessary. Remember that things might not go as planned. Nature is always full of surprises and some hospitals still have medical intervention policies that may not always promote a natural birth. In any case, the most important outcome is a healthy baby and mother.
Two of the main reasons why women choose home birth are:
- to avoid what they have previously experienced or what they anticipate might happen with a hospital birth and
- for their baby to be delivered with care by just one or two midwives who they can get to know and trust.
Other benefits include:
- In the familiar environment of their home, they often feel more in control of their labour and birth, and can have whoever they want present.
- There is less risk of infection for both mother and baby.
- There is less risk of an unnecessary episiotomy.
- Even if a hospital transfer is needed, the risk of caesarean is very low.
- Antenatal and postnatal visits at home or in the midwife’s home feel much more personal than visiting a clinic with many other women.
Birth centres are a great alternative for women with uncomplicated pregnancies who want the relative comfort of giving birth in a low-tech environment and the security of being in or near a hospital. These places are typically decorated to look less like hospital rooms and more like bedrooms, right down to curtains on the windows and a rocking chair in the corner. Most are staffed by midwives working with doctors affiliated with the hospital that the birth centre is part of, or with a hospital near the birth centre.
Birth centres encourage women to manage their labour as naturally as possible. Midwives are skilled at managing pain during childbirth through controlled breathing, labour positions and relaxation techniques. Most birth centres are also equipped to provide pain relief. However, if you want an epidural, you will have to give birth in a hospital. Look for a birth centre that is accredited, which means that it has physician contacts and hospital affiliations.
Inform yourself about the different available options of birthplaces and talk to your midwife or healthcare provider, who can advise you on how to make a backup plan at a suitable hospital.