The art of childbirth has been practiced for many years. Over time, we have learned more about what is good for our bodies, what is good for babies, and what practices will create the safest result. Giving birth is such an amazing experience and something that many birth givers think can only take place in a hospital setting. However, there are a variety of clean, safe places to bring your bundle of joy into the world. The first step in finding the right place to give birth is knowing your options. It’s important to remember this is your birthing experience and completely your choice. The choice will depend on what the mom-to-be envisions for her birth, her health, and the type of provider she sees through her birth.
If you are considering non-traditional birthing locations, this article will help you get the information you need to make an informed decision.
Choosing Where to Give Birth: Three Different Options
Since we brought it up, let’s discuss the crowd favorite. The most common place to give birth is in a hospital. Hospitals feel safer for a lot of women and birth givers since there are many interventions available if necessary.
Hospitals are recommended for any high-risk pregnancies (i.e., those pregnant with multiples, over the age of 35, or with a condition like preeclampsia) and for all induced births. Hospitals also provide the most provider options such as a:
- A family physician,
- A certified nurse midwife (CNM)
- A doula
Hospitals offer many options in the event of an unexpected complication. Many find comfort in knowing that time will not be spared should there be a need for an emergency operation. Hospitals often have the advance technology available on hand and anesthesiologists with a wide variety of medications. Operating rooms are close by. Hospitals offer easy access to epidurals and medical teams when needed. In addition, hospitals provide post-delivery care for birth giver and babies. Many hospitals have a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to monitor the baby if born prematurely or if there are complications.
Despite the advantages in technology, hospitals are often large. This prevents you from selecting the doctor and nurse who will attend to you during your stay. Hospitals can be expensive, particularly for extended stays. Even in private rooms, there are many people passing through. Although private rooms can offer more consistency with staff, there are still many residents, nurses, hospitality staff etc. coming in and out regularly. Hospitals are also restricted to their established policies. That can mean less input regarding who can be in the room or how long visitors can be present.
The female body is designed to give birth. Some do not view labor and birth as a medical condition, but the culmination of a beautiful and natural process. For women and birth givers with a low-risk pregnancy who desire a more natural birth experience, a birth center might be a good option. A birth center is a health care facility for delivery that follows the midwifery and wellness model. Birth centers commonly focus on the client’s right to make informed health care choices about the birth giver and baby. This option is typically committed to providing prenatal care and educating women and birth givers to optimize their personal birth experience.
What can you expect from a birthing center?
A common misconception of birth centers is that they are less equipped to complete a delivery than hospitals. Birthing centers are freestanding facilities that operate free of traditional policies. These facilities are typically within reasonable proximity to a hospital (sometimes even in the hospital) or health facility capable of providing a C-section if needed. Expecting mothers to have a team of health care providers to attend to them. This list includes nurse-midwives, direct-entry midwives, or nurses working with an obstetrician.
Birth centers offer a warm and relaxed atmosphere for clients to connect with the experience of labor and delivery. The birth rooms often look like home. Participation from a support system is highly encouraged. Giving birth in a birth center always means you get to go home with your baby much sooner than if you had given birth in a hospital. Most moms and birth givers go home the same day!
Birth centers encourage a natural birth experience. This means they do not offer inductions or other practices that may change your body’s natural process. Practices like episiotomies are not offered at birth centers. Medications commonly used during childbirth or after to aid in pain relief are not available. Equipment is limited to what is necessary for a safe delivery. A birthing center is not a good option if challenges are anticipated during delivery. Challenges can range from having multiples to more complex scenarios like diabetes or preeclampsia. Many birth centers have agreements in place to expedite transfers when they are needed. The following are some of the reasons women are transferred:
The birth giver feels exhausted and does not want to continue
- Prolonged rupture of membranes
- High blood pressure
- No progress with labor
- Fetal distress
Not all birth centers follow the same philosophy of care. It is important to become familiar with the objectives and personnel of the center of interest. Families have the option to find and select a birth center. Take some time to find the right location for you. In Georgia we have three birthing centers:
- Atlanta Birth Center — Atlanta, GA
- The Midwife Group Women’s Health & Birth Center — Savannah, GA
- Northeast Georgia Medical Center — Gainesville, GA and Braselton, GA
Be sure to research the birth center to find one that best meets your needs.
Giving birth at home was the norm for centuries. By the 1900s, an increasing number of women and birth givers started having their babies at hospitals. The introduction of anesthesia gave women and birth givers the option to have less pain or even a pain-free childbirth. Home birth is a great option for those who would like to have a natural birth experience. As our understanding of anatomy, modern medicine, the mechanics of childbirth, and technology have significantly increased, more women have been willing to consider the option of having a home birth. Home births should be attended by a trained professional, such as a traditional midwife (grand/granny midwife) experienced in managing home births, nurse midwives, or trained midwife (CPM) in cases of low-risk, healthy pregnancies.
Home births offer families the opportunities to share the birthing experience with additional family and friends. Giving birth at home gives loved ones more of an active role in the delivery process. Labor takes place in the comfort of your home or location of your choice, where you are free to move around as you wish. Often in hospitals, mothers and birth givers are restricted to remining within the mother baby unit. Home births allow mothers and birth givers more control of their surroundings and save families an average 60% in medical care costs. Home births also reduce the amount of transport for the birth giver and baby. Since the delivery takes place in the home, babies immediately begin adjusting to their home environment. Mothers and birth givers who choose to breastfeed can immediately begin this practice from home in the setting in which they will use most often. Early breastfeeding helps the birth giver stop bleeding, clears mucus from the baby’s nose and mouth, and transfers disease-fighting antibodies in the milk from the birth giver to baby.
Home birth should not be considered when any of the following conditions are of concern:
- Chronic high blood pressure
- Toxemia (also known as preeclampsia)
- Experienced preterm labor in the past
- At risk for preterm labor
If for some reason you need to be transferred, your provider should accompany you to the hospital.
You may be wondering what to expect if you decide to deliver outside of the hospital. If opting for a home birth or birthing center, it is a good idea to prepare for a plan B if a hospital transfer becomes necessary. Up to 37% of first-time birth givers attempting home births end up transferring to a hospital, largely because the baby is unable to move through the birth canal. This number drops significantly for those who have previously given birth. While preparing for the big day, meet with multiple care providers in and outside of the hospital setting. (Click here for help identifying the right provider for you!) This will lower the chances of having to make tough decisions under pressure. You will also want to identify a pediatrician who can examine the baby within 24 hours of birth. Your provider should have these items handy on delivery day:
- Oxygen for the baby, if needed
- Sterile gloves, gauze pads, a cotton hat for the baby, drop cloths, waterproof covers for the bed, a thermometer, a pan for sitz baths after birth
- Fetoscopes or ultrasonic stethoscopes
- Medications to slow or stop a hemorrhage
- Special herbal preparations, homeopathic remedies, massage supplies/techniques, particularly if delivering from home
- Items for suturing tears