Birth Options: Been-There Mamas Talk Hospital, Birth Center, and Home Birth Experiences
Remember the good ol' days when a woman would get pregnant, give birth, and have a baby and that was all there was to it? (OK, so there was probably more than that involved, but you get my drift …)
These days, however, finding out you are a pregnant starts you on a mission impossible for learning and making choices about all of the ways you want to parent.
Starting with where you want to give birth to your baby.
With so many different options out there, I spoke to Leah Outten, a mom blogger who is currently pregnant, about her experiences having a hospital birth, a home birth, and a birth-center birth.
Leah had two hospital births before traveling down the road to a birth center and a home birth and experienced a lot of the “normal” interventions that a hospital birth can bring, like being induced with pitocin and getting episiotomies. Although, ultimately, a hospital birth was something she would stay away from in the future, for most women in the United States, a hospital is where they will give birth.
Having worked as a labor and delivery nurse, I will say this: hospital births and women's experiences with them can vary vastly, and a lot of that depends on the culture of the hospital, your personal knowledge, and your relationship with your provider. It is possible to have many of the natural approaches to childbirth integrated in a hospital birth, such as birthing tubs and skin-to-skin, if those are important to you.
In choosing a hospital birth, do your homework to find out what the actual practices are in the hospital by talking to real women who have delivered there (what they say may not always be what the employee culture allows), touring the OB floor for yourself, and having an open and honest discussion with your healthcare provider about your wishes.
From what I've seen, women sometimes forget that doctors are working for them, so don't be afraid to seek out the experience you want for you and your baby, no matter where you give birth.
In my mind, birth centers sound a lot like the best of both worlds–no icky hospital germs to contend with, a more relaxed, home-like atmosphere that can be great to help you labor effectively, and all with access to life-saving emergency care if needed. Outten explains why she decided to choose a birth center for the birth of her fourth child, saying, “After two pregnancies with OBGYNs, two hospital births, two pitocin inductions, and two episiotomies, I wanted something different. Not just in how I envisioned the birth to be, but in the attention and care I got through the nine months as well.”
She describes the birth center as a “stepping stone” for her and her husband, as a way for them to get a home-like environment without actually being at home. With a midwife-run birthing center practice, Outten felt that she had a lot more personalized, one-on-one care, as well as an array of options during her pregnancy and the labor and delivery itself.
Home births have been on the rise in the U.S. since 2004, a trend that will most likely continue. After two hospital births and a birth-center birth, Leah decided that a home birth was right. She felt confident that her body's ability to birth, prepared mentally, and had a labor-and-birth support team that she trusted. On her blog, Leah describes what laboring for her home birth was like:
“This whole time, Mark was busy cleaning, prepping birth supplies, or simply just being near me. I didn't feel a need for his support yet but loved his company. We spent a lot of time laughing in between contractions (the way he can make me laugh is one of my favorite things about him!), and the atmosphere was so lighthearted, joyful, and peaceful as I labored on. We had my labor playlist playing on his iPhone dock, songs ranging from hymns to songs about looking forward to life with a baby. I was so enjoying the sunlight pouring into our windows; it felt refreshing and pure.”
From a medical perspective, there is a lot to consider before choosing a home birth. First, consider the laws in your state. Some states do not allow midwives to legally deliver babies at home, so know the rules before going in. Secondly, make sure your midwife is well trained and certified, and always, always have a plan for emergencies if you do choose a home birth.
Which birth option do you plan on choosing?